Not Without Sin

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2010, 12:25 am

Wrong calls and wrong balls.

In the last week or so, we’ve been reminded yet again how golf is different from other sports but also how the people who play golf aren’t as different as those in the game would like us to think.

We’re reminded of that in New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s wrong-call controversy and in the LPGA’s wrong-ball debacle.

Golf may be different, its rules and culture different than other sports, but it’s played by human beings who are as flawed as athletes from any other sport.

Golf’s not without sin. We’ve seen high-profile accusations of cheating among the game’s biggest names over the years. We’re hearing ugly whispers about it now in the women’s game.

Golf isn’t immune from athletes getting caught up pursuing success at the expense of character, from choosing achievement over personal integrity. The difference, ultimately, is in the virtue of the game and what it demands, more so than in the virtue of the people who play it.

Wrong calls and wrong balls.

In the last week or so, we’ve seen Jeter hoodwink umpires into believing he was hit by a pitch in a game for first place against the Tampa Bay Rays. And we’ve become aware of LPGA commissioner Mike Whan addressing tour members’ concerns about “way too many” suspicious rules incidents in their game this year.

In the end, the resolutions in these matters differed not so much because of the differences in the people who play the games but in the differences in the games themselves, in the history, standards, culture and expectations within each game.

Jeter pretended he was hit by a pitch when he knew the ball never touched him but struck the handle of his bat. He was awarded first base with his ruse. And even though replays clearly showed he was not hit, Jeter won’t be vilified as a cheater by his fellow pros.

“It’s part of the game,” Jeter told reporters. “It’s my job to get on base.”

Within the culture of his sport, Jeter is a clever competitor, a guy who used the accepted practices of his game to help his team. His sport’s standards molded his behavior. His acting was a byproduct of his sport’s culture.

The LPGA’s wrong-ball debacle is complicated.

If you missed it, Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung were disqualified from the CN Canadian Women’s Open for playing the wrong balls at the final hole in the first round.

It’s complicated because though it was ruled that the players ultimately turned themselves in, there were reports of questionable intentions. Ahn’s caddie, Tim Hegna, told both Golfweek and the Web site Waggle Room, that his player knew she played the wrong ball and wanted to cover it up. It’s complicated because there ended up being multiple versions of what happened, a problem that threatened to grow messier as it ignited outrage among tour players over other accusations.

“There have been way too many suspicious incidents this year,” tour veteran Katherine Hull told Golfweek. “And if people aren’t going to play by the rules, they don’t deserve to play.”

Ultimately, Whan intervened, not just in settling the wrong-ball issue, but in addressing larger player concerns about possible cheating. He spent an hour addressing the matters in a mandatory player meeting at last week’s P&G NW Arkansas Championship.

“The resolution was that there was no wrongdoing,” Jane Geddes, the LPGA’s senior vice president of tournament operations, said of the wrong-ball violation. “There was no cheating. The players in question hit the wrong balls. It was discovered after the round, and as soon as they discovered it, they went to find the officials.”

Geddes said Whan laid out the ruling for all the players and opened the meeting for discussion.

“We addressed all of it,” Geddes said. “We took our time. Mike delivered a couple important messages. The first thing he said is that he would protect the game of golf. The second thing is that he would make sure if there was any disagreement, or a judgment needed to be made, he would make sure all the facts were available before he made a call.

“True to his word, he made sure we got all the facts. He talked to all the players and caddies. There was a lot of hearsay and allegations, but the fact of the matter is that regardless who said what, the players did the right thing. They went to a rules official, and they disqualified themselves. That’s the worst penalty somebody could get.”

Geddes is an 11-time LPGA winner with two major championships to her credit. She said she found the entire issue disappointing, but she also acknowledged that the game’s not without sin.

“Everyone feels bad that we even have to address this,” Geddes said. “But I know as a former player, cheating’s been around a long time.”

Geddes said Whan shared a story from LPGA founder and Hall of Famer Louise Suggs with his players during the mandatory meeting. Suggs told Whan what he was dealing with was nothing new. She shared issues she dealt with in the tour’s earliest days.

“Things happen on every tour, everywhere,” Geddes said. “It’s not how the game’s supposed to be played, but we can’t control everyone’s actions. We can only have control when we know things are happening.”

Whan reminded players the nature of their game demands more of them, including their responsibility to call each other out “when in doubt.”

“Hopefully, what the meeting satisfied is players knowing Mike would protect the game,” Geddes said. “Secondly, he would do everything in his power to get all the facts in a situation. Thirdly, if he found somebody cheating, he wouldn’t take it lightly. He would take whatever action was deserved.”

Geddes said that included the possibility of suspensions.

Because while the game of golf may be virtuous, the people who play it aren’t necessarily any more virtuous than athletes from other sports. The game’s higher standard demands more vigilance from its overseers and players alike. It demands wrong balls get right calls.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.



Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

LeBron's son tries golf, and he might be good at everything

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 5:36 pm

LeBron James' son seems well on his way to a successful basketball career of his own. To wit:

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Finally got it down lol

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But with just a little work, he could pass on trying to surpass his father and try to take on Tiger and Jack, instead.

Bronny posted this video to Instagram of him in sandals whacking balls off a mat atop a deck into a large body of water, which is the golfer's definition of living your best life.

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How far, maybe 400 #happygilmore

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If you listen closely, at the end of the clip, you can just barely hear someone scream out for a marine biologist.