Back and Forth

By Rex HoggardSeptember 2, 2010, 2:20 am

Golf is governed by just 34 rules, although anyone with a Wi-Fi connection or basic cable package would be excused for thinking the sport is riddled with more small print than the Tiger Woods divorce settlement.

From Dustin Johnson to Juli Inkster to Jim Furyk, it seems the ancient game has been hijacked by disclaimers. No need for walking rules officials any longer, roaming teams of lawyers will now tag along to assure compliance.

For Johnson and Inkster, the Rules of Golf left little room for interpretation. Furyk, however, was every bit a self-inflicted wound. When the consummate pro was bounced from last week’s Barclays for missing his pro-am tee time by no more than 10 minutes neither the execution nor the idea made much sense.

The pro-am policy was enacted in 2004 to protect sponsors, but Barclays took a potent right-left combination when the then-third ranked FedEx Cup player missed his five-hour pro-am shmooz-fest and the tournament proper.

On Tuesday the Tour reversed course and nixed the rule for the remainder of the 2010 season thanks, in large part, to the biting comments of Phil Mickelson.

Although it’s encouraging to see Mickelson using his substantial powers for good, rather than evil, his withdrawal from Thursday’s pro-am at TPC Boston smacks of Phil being Phil.

Mickelson made his point beyond even a dollop of ambiguity last Wednesday saying, “(the pro-am rule) is not protecting the players. It's not protecting the sponsors. It applies to only half the field and yet it affects the integrity of the competition. I cannot disagree with it more.”

Although Lefty’s Deutsche Bank dodge smacks of piling on, much like his decision to play non-conforming-yet-legal grooves earlier this year at Torrey Pines, his dissension echoed the loudest last week and likely went a long way to prompting the Tour’s 180 on the policy.

It was an ill-conceived rule and another example of the Tour mandating a machete when a well-handled scalpel was in order.

Since 2004 when the pro-am policy began there have been seven disqualifications as a result of a player missing a pro-am tee time – two in ’04 (Peter Jacobson, 84 Lumber Classic and David Forst, Byron Nelson Championship), one in 2005 (Retief Goosen, Nissan Open), three in 2008 (John Daly, Nick O’Hern and Ryuji Imada at Bay Hill) and Furyk last week.

“Look the fact is there have been (seven) disqualifications over four years. There really isn’t that big of a problem,” said one member of the Player Advisory Council. “There is not a problem if common sense is applied.”

It’s a testament that most players don’t need to be told that it’s important to take care of sponsors. It’s akin to the circuit’s elaborate, and widely ignored, pace of play policy. The vast majority of players don’t need to be told that five-hour rounds are bad for golf, to say nothing of mental health, yet a handful of habitual offenders continue to make life slow in the big leagues.

“What was so badly needed was the same few guys kept making excuses why they couldn’t play the pro-ams,” said another member of the PAC. “Instead of dealing with the few problems a rule was made affecting everyone except, as Phil says and it’s true, it only pertains to half the field.

“Like slow play, we say we are addressing the problem when actually the heart of the problem isn’t fixed.”

In November the Policy Board will attempt to conjure up a fix to the suspended rule and there are no shortage of suggestions. One veteran player suggested a player who misses a pro-am tee time pay a fine, say $5,000, to the tournament charity; while another said a player showing up late – most agree a player who misses a pro-am entirely should be disqualified from that week’s tournament – should finish the pro-am and then take his group out to lunch on his own dime.

Yet millionaires writing checks to tidy up broken china rarely works (see Gulf Spill and BP), and there is already a provision in the Tour regulations that allows a top player (top 30 from the previous year’s money or FedEx Cup list) to opt out of a pro-am twice in a single season in exchange for an alternative sponsor function.

“In a pro-am three or four amateurs are going to get five hours with Phil on the golf course, which is great, but maybe it’s better if you have a dinner with 20 executives and clients for two or three hours,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration. “Maybe that’s a better use of a player’s time.”

At issue is whether the Tour even needs a regulation. Before 2004, a missed pro-am tee time was handled under the circuit’s “conduct unbecoming” clause, with officials and administrators given the flexibility to handle issues on a case by case basis, free of the mandates of a Draconian policy.

That Mickelson and others are now incensed by a five-year old regulation simply proves a long-held truth – the independent contractors care little for Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., minutia until it hits home or a tad too close to home.

“I’m not sure the mandate was required,” said one PAC member. “It’s a classic case of cutting off the arm when a simple bandage would have worked.”

In this case, less is more, and legalese only makes things messy. Just ask Furyk and Barclays.

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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

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Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”