Golf takes step back in reducing technology's role

By Rex HoggardApril 26, 2017, 7:42 pm

During Wednesday’s matinee between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants infielder Eduardo Nunez was thrown out trying to steal second base in the bottom of the first inning.

Although Nunez was originally called out, after an official review the call was reversed thanks to the latest in video technology. The play was studied numerous times in high definition and in slow motion. It was also watched at an exposure at least five-times the normal magnification.

The same scenario unfolds every day in sports, from the NHL to the NBA and Major League Baseball, technology and video replays are now an integral part of the athletic landscape. After decades of trial and error, officials have come to the realization that there is no limit to video review to assure the correct call.

Every sport, that is, except golf.

How the new decision issued by the USGA and R&A on Tuesday will be applied remains to be seen, and by most accounts the new standards are a step in the right direction. But there is something distinctly archaic about a move that limits technology.

Under the new “naked eye” standard, officials will continue to use video reviews to determine if there’s been a violation – and the same standard was already being used in some situations – but the difference now is that officials will need to determine how much technology is too much technology.



“Video technology, especially the use of methods such as high resolution or close-up camera shots that can be replayed in slow motion, has the potential to undermine this essential characteristic of the game by identifying the existence of facts that could not reasonably be identified in any other way,” the new decision reads.

Officials will now need to determine if a possible violation could “reasonably have been seen with the naked eye.”

Put another way, it’s not simply a review of the facts that officials will need to address, but also whether the level of technology used to determine a possible violation fits with the naked eye standard.

A great example of this standard came at the 2014 Players Championship when Justin Rose was assessed a two-stroke penalty – one shot for the ball moving at address and one for not replacing it after it had moved – on Day 3.

This ruling was the result of numerous reviews of the incident using high-definition cameras and highly magnified images, but the next day PGA Tour rules officials rescinded the penalty based on the original naked eye decision and the Englishman began the final round two strokes closer to the lead than he was when he left the golf course on Saturday.

While most agreed that Rose’s situation was exactly what the rule makers were hoping to remedy with the naked eye standard, no one can say exactly where that line should be drawn.

Is standard-definition video and images slowed to half speed where things remain clear to the naked eye, or are there scenarios where a more detailed review would be considered appropriate?

Originally, Tour officials said the naked eye standard shouldn’t apply to Rose’s situation in ’14 at TPC Sawgrass because he’d backed away from the shot.

“He saw something,” the Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions Mark Russell told GolfChannel.com at the time.

A more recent incident involving Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration would be a more legitimate standard, but because neither Thompson nor anyone in her group was questioned about the incident it is unknown if the penalty would have been reversed under the new standard.

Because officials used ultra-high definition and magnified video to determine that Thompson had not replaced her golf ball in the same spot after marking it during the third round it would be a legitimate litmus test going forward. It’s also worth pointing out that most who watched the replay of the Thompson situation agree there was a violation of Rule 20-7c (playing from wrong place).

If the consensus is Thompson ran afoul of the rules, however innocent the incident might seem, should the issue be what level of video technology remains within the new naked eye decision, or whether the Rules of Golf need to be adjusted to account for such seemingly harmless acts?

Technology – and to a lesser degree viewer call-ins and emails, but that’s a column for another day – has been made out to be the problem here, and yet every other professional sport is heading in the opposite direction of golf on the information super highway.

The rule makers are blazing new paths in what has been billed as a “modernization” of the Rules of Golf, but this new decision – which is entitled “limitations on use of video evidence” – feels like a step in the wrong direction.

No one is pleased with the the Thompson situation – neither the outcome nor that it took some 20 hours to unfold – and the desire to avoid similar incidents in the future is understandable, but sports have rules that must be applied no matter how much technology is needed to assure the proper outcome.

Just ask Nunez.

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: