Randall's Rant: Only one to blame at U.S. Girls'

By Randall MellJuly 31, 2017, 12:30 pm

There are no gimmes in golf, especially with major titles riding in championship match play.

Elizabeth Moon raked away a gimme.


Game over.

End of story.

This story should go no further than that.

Moon is young. She’s 17, and she made a very large mistake that cost her the semifinal at the U.S. Girls’ Junior last week.

Moon assumed her 6-inch putt was good after missing a 4-foot birdie chance to win the match, assumed that Erica Shepherd was going to concede the tap-in putt, and Moon almost immediately reached over to rake it away, before Shepherd could really gather herself and take in the larger picture in that jarring, head-spinning moment.

Shepherd is even younger than Moon. She’s 16. Her reaction in that blink of an eye, when her caddie asks her if she gave Moon the putt, is completely understandable in that highly competitive moment. Shepherd says she didn't give Moon the putt.

Shepherd’s reaction a few moments later, when she says she would have given her the putt, is understandable, too, with the gravity of it all settling on her.

This was raw, honest human reaction in real time with something intensely valued hanging in the balance.

Sportsmanship isn’t an issue here.

There was nothing unsportsmanlike in Shepherd’s reaction. There was no gamesmanship, no malicious opportunism in her reaction, no cunning attempt to take advantage.

It call comes back to the fact that there are no gimmes in championship golf.

You could argue that Shepherd could have immediately turned away, acted as if she gave Moon the putt, but there is a lie in that.

Players can’t take gimmes, no matter how short the putt. You stop, and you look for confirmation from your opponent before raking a putt away.

Because where do you draw the line? When are “gimmes” common sense, if ever? From 18 inches? From 2 feet? From 3 feet?

Jason Day goes at match play as mercilessly as anyone, ever. He is begrudging about concessions. He irritates opponents with his lack of generosity with short putts.

Is that unsportsmanlike? No, it’s a strategy that is inherent in the nature of match play.

Sportsmanship is a spirit of fairness within the rules.

Raking away putts without a concession veers outside the rules.

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, says sportsmanship has its basis in the ancient Olympic ideal that you honor your opponent, because competition pushes humanity to higher levels of excellence. So, you honor your opponent as an ally in striving together for a greater good.

Sportsmanship is also about honoring the game.

Gimmes don’t honor the game, because there’s a slippery slope in how far some players could take that. A concession makes it clear cut.

This is no attack on the young Moon, not at all. She wasn’t being cunning or deceptive, or trying to get away with a gimme. She made a mistake in the heat of the moment, and then she showed great character in the way she handled her mistake. In fact, she didn’t blame Shepherd or the Rules of Golf. She was admirably and honorably accountable.

And what about the spirit of the game?

Shepherd’s critics say the spirit of the game wasn’t served with Moon’s loss. But would it have been served with a gimme? Again, with the slippery slope that leads to, with all the problems that players would create assuming putts are conceded? Really, aren’t you defending the field and the game itself when you require a concession be given?

For those comparing this to the Solheim Cup controversy that engulfed Suzann Pettersen two years ago, there are huge differences.

That was a two-woman fourball game.

American Alison Lee completely changed that dynamic when she said she thought she heard Europe conceding the putt. Lee completely shifted the heat on to Pettersen and Europe when she said that. The fact that Europe’s Charley Hull started walking away before Lee scooped up the putt added to the confusion. There was even an official’s option within the rules there that would have allowed Lee to replay the putt.

It’s a shame Moon lost the way she did, but there are no gimmes in championship golf.

End of story.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”