WD would have been the right move for Woods

By John FeinsteinApril 13, 2013, 6:12 pm

There was absolutely no need for Tiger Woods to withdraw from the Masters after he received a two-stroke penalty Saturday for an illegal drop on the 15th hole Friday afternoon.

After all, the tournament rules committee did not see fit to disqualify him after he signed for an incorrect score and used the discretion now allowed in such situations to keep him in the tournament.

Beyond that, much of the trouble was caused by the men running the Masters. To begin with, the Masters is the only one of the four majors that doesn’t assign a walking rules official to each group. Part of Masters tradition is that no one is allowed inside the ropes during play other than players, caddies and – of course – TV technicians and cameramen. There are no walking scorers; no media and no rules officials. The rules officials sit in carts around the golf course and wait to be called on if needed. That’s also the way it works during weekly PGA Tour events because there aren’t enough rules officials – usually eight – to assign someone to each group.


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That’s not true at a major championship where rules officials from around the world are invited to attend and participate.

If there had been a walking official with Woods he almost certainly would have been able to make sure Woods understood his options after his third shot at 15 hit the flagstick and spun back into the water. And, if he knew what he was doing, he would have suggested to Woods that he make certain his drop was as near to where he had hit his previous shot as possible.

Of course that’s not a certainty. In 2010 when Dustin Johnson hadn’t bothered to read the local rules sheet for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, walking rules official David Price could have rescued him by saying, “Dustin, you know you’re in a bunker under the local rule, right?”

He didn’t and Johnson grounded his club not knowing that the trampled-on sand he was in was a hazard and the two-stroke penalty he incurred knocked him out of a playoff.

Even if a walking rules official had failed to warn Woods, rules committee chairman Fred Ridley, after being alerted to the possibility that the drop had not been executed correctly, should have met Woods in the scoring area to ask him what had happened and perhaps even take him to the TV trucks to review the drop. Instead, he ruled that Woods hadn’t violated the rules before Woods finished his round. It was only after Woods described what he had done to the media that the issue was raised again and it wasn’t until Saturday morning that Woods was penalized.

Woods made an honest mistake. The committee also made mistakes: its initial ruling was wrong and Ridley – or someone on the rules committee – should have spoken directly to Woods before making a ruling.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had done something differently,” Ridley said when asked if, in hindsight, he should have met Woods in the scoring area to talk to him.

All of that said, the best thing Woods could have done on Saturday morning was withdraw.

Why?

Because if he goes on and wins the tournament there will always be people who will see taint in the victory. Until two years ago, the committee would have had no choice under the rules but to disqualify him for signing a wrong scorecard – even if their mistake caused it to happen.

The wiggle room that was created in 2011 by rule 33-7 was intended to protect players who could not have known they violated a rule as in the Padraig Harrington so-called “HD” ruling in Abu Dhabi when only super-slow-motion in HD showed that his ball had barely moved on a green while he was addressing it.

Woods could have known he violated a rule and didn’t. Neither ignorance of a rule nor intent – no one thinks for a second he meant to break the rule – are relevant to the Rules of Golf. “I didn’t know,” doesn’t matter. Neither does, “I didn’t mean to do it.”

There are numerous examples in the past of players, when in doubt, penalizing or even disqualifying themselves. In 1998 at Bay Hill, Jeff Sluman remembered a local rule at the 17th hole after he had hit his ball in the water and taken what he thought was a legal drop.

He remembered the rule hours after his round was over. The next morning he asked a rules official to go back to the spot with him to try to determine if his drop had been legal. Neither man was certain. Under the rules, Sluman was entitled to give himself the benefit of the doubt. He was two shots out of the lead at the time.

He withdrew.

“I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I somehow won and thought I might have made an illegal drop along the way,” he said. “I couldn’t live with the doubt.”

In 1994, during the second round of the Western Open Davis Love III moved his marker so that Tom Watson could putt on the 14th hole. As he walked off the green, Love couldn’t remember if he had moved his mark back. No one in the group could remember either – his caddie, Frank Williams, had been raking a bunker.

Because he wasn’t certain, Love added one to his score at the end of the day – and missed the cut by a shot. The money he would have made if he had gone on to finish last on the weekend would have put him in the top 30 on the money list at the end of the year. In those days, that got you into the Masters. Instead, Love began 1995 without a spot in the Masters and didn’t get in until he won in New Orleans the week prior to the tournament.

At one point, after he had come close to winning but ultimately failed on several occasions, someone asked Love how he was going to feel if he missed the Masters because he had called a penalty on himself when he wasn’t sure he committed a violation.

“How would I feel,” he answered, “if I won the Masters and had to wonder the rest of my life if I cheated to get in?”

Woods didn’t cheat. But a case can clearly be made that he could have been disqualified. Choosing to play wasn’t wrong – he was entitled to play. But if he had withdrawn and said, “I want to break Jack Nicklaus’ record someday without a hint of taint in the achievement,” it would have been his finest hour as a human being.

He would have proven that he can be selfless and he would have protected the integrity of the game – the way Sluman, Love and others have done in the past.

He didn’t have to do it. But it would have been a great moment for Woods and for golf if he had done it. He may well be the Masters champion on Sunday night. But he could have been a hero on Saturday morning.


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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”