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GolfWRX Morning 9: Tiger talks | USGA: We’re not rollback zealots | Backstopping

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Good morning, GolfWRX members. As most of you are signed up for our newsletters, you likely already know that I’ve been sending this little Morning 9 roundup of nine items of note to start your day.

In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below. Feedback is always welcome–send everything from news tips to complaints (hopefully more tips than complaints)!

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

June 13, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Tiger talks
The 14-time major champion had his pre-U.S. Open press conference yesterday. Here are a few interesting morsels as Woods prepares for his first USO appearance since 2015.
  • “I had no expectation or thought that I actually could be here again,” he said, reflecting on his health 12 months ago. “I had just been given the OK to start walking again. What was this June? I hadn’t been cleared to start lifting (weights). It was about my standard of life, forget golf.  … To go from there to where I am now, I had no expectation.”
  • “Last June, it was about my standard of life. Forget golf. Can I actually participate in my kids’ lives again? A lot of this is pure bonus because of where I was.”
  • “I’ve heard a few guys saying it takes two-and-a-half to three hours from the hotel, so there’s a good chance someone might miss their time….You get a little traffic or a little fender bender [crash] and it’s conceivable.”
Bonus take on Sag Harbor, where Woods’ yacht is docked: “Sag Harbor is a cute little town. I’ve only been there for a few days now…I haven’t really got a chance to walk about a little bit, but certainly will this week.”
2. Davis:  Roll back your rollback talk!
“The notion that we’re going to be rolling the ball back next year is simply not the case,” USGA CEO, Mike Davis stated yesterday.
Per Mike Stachura, the USGA is going to sit back and let the data flow in from its Distance Insights project. However, it doesn’t sound like the idea of bifurcation is gaining any traction in Far Hills.
  • “…it seems Davis is more than a little curious as to what effect distance has had on the game in its entirety and over its centuries-old history and where the current trendline is pointing. He expressed a vision for golf’s future that involves what he calls a desire “to give the game more choices,” but at the same time he also stressed, “one set of rules is very important to the game long term.”
  • “If you all of a sudden allow a bunch of different bodies to allow their own rules, it would become chaotic,” he said. “There has to be some structure.”
3. Dustin Johnson doesn’t hit the ball too far (says Dustin Johnson)
Not sure where this fits in the distance debate exactly, but I’ll present this real thing Dustin Johnson actually said yesterday without comment.
  • Per Golfweek: “I would tell them to go out and watch a golf tournament,” Johnson said of the dial-it-back crowd. “I don’t think I hit it too far. Yeah, there’s occasions where you get downwind, downhill on firm ground and the ball goes a long way. Walk around here. When you’ve got a ball straight into the wind, the golf ball ain’t going that far. I definitely don’t hit it too far and the game is not easy, that’s for sure. I don’t know what to say to them except maybe go watch some golf shots.”
4. Backstopping debate not stopping
Fueled by Jimmy Walker’s statement-of-the-obvious tweets the other day, the backstopping debate continues.
A couple of gems from Michael Bamberger’s piece for Golf.com…
  • “It’s wink-wink,” Shackelford said on Tuesday, explaining why he pays attention to it, and why he dislikes it so. The concept of backstopping is foreign to old-school get-in-your-face players – he cited Curtis Strange, Hale Irwin and others – who view playing partners as the opponents they actually are.”
  • “Johnson and Day show both an understanding of the rules and understanding of the spirit of stroke-play competition in their remarks. Rule 22 of the Rules of Golf states, “In stroke play, if the committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitor, they are disqualified.”

Full piece.

5. What (quasi-)science tells us about the best majors
Luke-Kerr Dineen returns to Golf Digest with his Venn diagrams handy to break down the ingredients of the best majors in recent memory.
Here’s an explanation of his “best majors” chart, pictured above.
  • “I’ve divided all the majors into three categories: “Tiger Woods,” which I’ve defined as Tiger playing a central role in the event; “Good timing,” which either means the event was broadcast in prime-time or had some other outside factor that helped boost ratings; and “compelling backstory.”
  • “I was a little hesitant to devote an entire circle to Tiger, but there’s just no way around it. He doesn’t necessarily need to win- Mark O’Meara and Rich Beem’s majors got a bump from Tiger being in contention, as did Phil Mickelson’s 2010 win when Tiger returned from his scandal. If Tiger’s in the mix, the ratings are going to be good. It’s pretty much that simple.”
6. The subtle ingredients in the recipes for the best golf clubs
Obviously, Shinnecock is a great American golf club–arguably the finest U.S. Open venue.
Guy Yocom discusses the phenomenon of the best old-line clubs in the country, offering a few tell-tale similarities between the finest.
  • “Walking is mandatory or at least strongly encouraged. Shinnecock permits carts, but the inertia of the place will push you toward walking. Cypress Point, Seminole, Erin Hills, Ballyneal and Bethpage Black (not old-line, but first-rate), insist on walking. They can afford the loss of cart revenue, but they don’t feel they can afford to let riding detract from the experience.”
  • “The caddies are a cut above. They will be in uniform, bibbed at least. They will be on the pricey end-Shinnecock’s caddies get $120 a bag, plus tip, and the caddies at nearby Sebonack get more than that. You will get what you pay for. They will move in concert with one another, rarely losing a ball. They will know every dip and swale of the course, greens included, but will advise only when asked.”
7. Fried Egg and Shinny
Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg breaks down Shinnecock as only he can.
  • “No single hole at Shinnecock is overwhelmingly hard, but no hole is easy. Great play is rewarded with scoring opportunities, while average play yields difficult pars. Shinnecock is a sum of all of its parts, the uneven lies, wind and vexing green complexes wear on players over 18 holes.
  • “Playing Shinnecock is like stepping into the ring against Floyd Mayweather. The course doesn’t rely on singular holes to deliver knockout punches but rather lies in wait for tactical mistakes ready to punish them.”
8. Houston Open stays open
The PGA Tour and Astros owner & chairman, Jim Crane, officially announced a five-year partnership.
Per the PGA Tour:
  • “The Astros Foundation will operate the event and serve as the host organization.
  • “The commitment to the Houston Open from the Astros Foundation, with the support of a consortium of local sponsors, is in place through 2023. The 2019 tournament will be conducted at the Golf Club of Houston during the fall portion of the PGA TOUR’s 2019-20 FedExCup Season with a $7.5 million purse and 500 FedExCup points awarded to the winner.”
9. Shinnecock and a pioneer of the game
Adam Crawford looks at the life of John Shippen, Jr., the first black man to compete in the U.S. Open.
  • “Shippen Jr. progressed, his golf game became superb. When the 1896 U.S. Open rolled around, several club members at Shinnecock offered to pay Shippen’s entry fee. At that time, golf was still an “exclusive” game in the U.S. and Shippen was allowed to enter the tournament only if he registered as a Native American along with another Native American caddie, Oliver Dunn.
  • ” As one would expect in 1896, Shippen and Dunn’s registration sparked a minor racial controversy. When the other professionals found out Shippen and Dunn had entered the event and that they were not Caucasian, they threatened to boycott the event. When the USGA President at the time, Theodore Havemeyer, learned of the impending boycott, he informed the players that the tournament would continue even if it were only contested between Shippen and Dunn. The professionals backed down and play began.
  • “Shippen Jr. made a name for himself that week as he finished fifth in the tournament and contested as a professional. He became the first African-American to tee it up in a U.S. Open, he also became the first American-born professional golfer.”
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  1. Greg V

    Jun 13, 2018 at 8:22 am

    I think that it was Oscar Bunn, not Oliver Dunn, who along with John Shippen played in the US Open of 1896.

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19th Hole

Lexi Thompson violates Rules of Golf at Indy Women in Tech Championship

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During the third round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship, Lexi Thompson unknowingly ran afoul of the Rules of Golf.

Preferred lies–AKA lift, clean, and place–were in effect at soggy Brickyard Crossing. Thompson hit her drive at the par-5 10th hole wide right. It settled in the sixth fairway. Believing she was allowed to lift and clean any ball in the fairway, Thompson began to do so.

The rule, of course, only applies to balls that settle in one’s own fairway. Fortunately for Thompson, an official saw what was happening and stepped in to administer a penalty.

“Thankfully, Marty [the official] intervened before she hit her next shot,” Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill reported. “Otherwise, she would have been hitting from the wrong spot, and it would have been a two-shot penalty. So, in a sense, it saved her a shot.”

The LPGA issued this statement.

“While playing the third round of the 2018 Indy Women in Tech Championship, Lexi Thompson incurred a one-stroke penalty for breach of the preferred lies local Rule (Appendix IA Part 3b Course Conditions).”

“The Committee adopted the preferred lies local Rule due to the turf conditions of the golf course after receiving over an inch of rain. The LPGA, under the local Rule, restricts the player from preferring her lie when her ball lies in a closely-mown area of a hole other than the one being played.”

“During the play of hole #10, Thompson’s tee shot came to rest in the fairway of hole #6. As Thompson’s ball lay on the fairway of hole #6, she was not entitled to prefer her lie.”

“She preferred her lie in breach of the local Rule but prior to playing her stroke from a wrong place (Rule 20-7), she was questioned by a Rules official regarding her actions. As she had not played her stroke from the preferred spot, she did not receive the general penalty of two-strokes under the local Rule. However, she did incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 for lifting her ball at rest without authority.”

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19th Hole

Joe LaCava, Tiger Woods’ caddie, paid a heckler $25 to leave at the WGC-Bridgestone

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While Steve Williams would likely have taken a different route, Tiger Woods’ current caddie admitted to bribing a fan to leave his boss alone.

LaCava called into ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo” and told a tale of paying of a heckler at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

LaCava said the man heckled Woods throughout his final round at the Bridgestone, and on the 14th hole, LaCava interceded, telling the man to check out action elsewhere on the course. Interestingly/absurdly, the man said he would be happy to, provided LaCava reimburse him for his ticket.

Here’s the full transcript c/o ESPN.

Mike Golic: “Did you have any issues with the people at Bellerive?”

Joe LaCava: “Not at all, and you hit it right on the head, 99 percent of the guys and women are behind Tiger, pushing for Tiger. They want to see good golf in general they’re not anti-the-other-guys, but they’re certainly rooting for Tiger more so than the other guys. But, funny you guys ask that question. The week before in Akron, I had a little incident with a guy who was harassing my guy on the 14th hole at Akron the last day outside the ropes, roughening him up pretty good. And I said, hey listen bud, why do you gotta go there? Everyone’s having a good time, everyone’s pulling for Tiger. You don’t like the guy that’s one thing, but you don’t to be yelling at my guy, screaming negative stuff like that. And I said at the end of the day, if you affect him, his performance, it effects my bottomline. So he calls me a couple names and I go back and forth with the guy, and I say why don’t you just leave. And he says well if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today I’ll leave. And I said here you go, here’s $25.”

Mike: “Did he leave?”

Joe: “So I whip out $25 and he starts to go down the 14th fairway toward the green. I say look pal $25 is $25 you gotta head the other way. So he starts to head the other way, he goes 20 yards down the line, then he calls me a certain other, a swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way and I’m going face to face with this guy. And all the sudden Tiger’s looking for a yardage, and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line. So some cop has to come in, push this guy outta the way, and take him outta the tournament.

Mike: “So what did Tiger say when you came back to give him the yardage?”

Joe: “Well that’s a great question. We were so far to the right of the trees, and he was on his third shot believe it or not, we were still 150 yards away from the green, and he didn’t really know what happened. He heard the commotion, he heard the guy yelling at him, so we talked about it after the fact, but he didn’t really know how it developed. And he says I was wondering what happened, and he goes normally it wouldn’t that long to get a yardage. I said well a little incident down the road. He didn’t have a problem with it, and actually I gotta standing ovation for kicking the guy outta there.

Security probably should have happened sooner when LaCava was $25 richer.

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19th Hole

A brief cart ride (by his caddie) has big implications for Akshay Bhatia at the U.S. Amateur

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16-year-old Akshay Bhatia may be looking for a new caddie for his next event. The rising star of amateur golf was penalized when his caddie accepted a ride on a golf cart at the 14th hole during the round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur.

Bhatia would go on to lose to Bradford Tilley.

The match was all square at the 14th. Chris Darnell, Bhatia’s caddie, made a pit stop at the bathroom after Bhatia hit his approach. While the player walked to the green, Darnell was approached by what he believed was a USGA official driving a golf cart.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell said afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Of course, neither players nor caddies can ride on any form of transportation during the round unless authorized, per the Rules of Golf. Bhatia was penalized accordingly and lost the hole after a (real) official spotted the infraction.

Particularly frustrating for the golfer was the fact that he had birdied the par-5 and believed he was going 1 up on his opponent, only to find out they were all square.

As mentioned, Bhatia would go on to lose in 19 holes.

Adding another layer to this drama, Darnell said Tilley’s caddie had done the same thing earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

What are the chances Tilley or his caddie admit to the infraction now? And who is this mystery idiot who loves the USGA enough to drape himself in their garb but is daft enough to blatantly break a straightforward rule of competition?

Dumb rule? Certainly in this sense. But so many situations exist in amateur play that you can understand why the USGA would level a prohibition on transportation. Still, shouldn’t there be some room for interpretation? It’s difficult to argue Bhatia himself gained any advantage…

What do you think, GolfWRX members?

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