Rules officials: Time better spent on course
- Article by: DOUG FERGUSON
- Associated Press
- May 21, 2013 - 4:24 PM
The number of people calling PGA Tour events after seeing possible rules violations has gone up since Tiger Woods took what turned out to be an illegal drop at the Masters. That doesn't mean the number of violations is increasing.
"The rate of irrelevant call-ins has gone up dramatically, too," said Tyler Dennis, the tour's vice president of competition.
What might seem like a simple solution — have a rules official monitor the telecast to look for any violations that cause fans to call from home — is not that simple. Years ago, the tour had one official devoted to watching the tournament on TV and found it to be a waste of time when no one called.
"We constantly talk about it," Dennis said Tuesday. "Because we're running 50-odd events a year, we want to use our resources in the best way we can. It's far better to have someone on the course than having someone watching the telecast."
The Players Championship had rules officials from all over the world. Dennis, who scored well enough on his USGA rules exam to help officiate a Nationwide Tour event when he was 16, didn't have a specific assignment and decided to monitor the telecast himself in the final round.
"Quite honestly, we had enough people here, and I had the ability to do it," Dennis said. "I felt it was a day that was important to do. I don't know that we'll make a program of this. I just happened to do it at The Players."
About the only big issue was the drop Woods took after his tee shot found the water on the 14th hole. Dennis, who watched the replay with chief rules official Mark Russell, saw nothing inappropriate.
"In our professional opinion, you couldn't tell anything definitive on TV and the players agreed 100 percent on where it crossed," Dennis said.
Dennis said the tour is focused instead on working with the USGA and R&A on what rules might need an adjustment to "reflect the modern state of the things."
OPEN DEADLINE: Thongchai Jaidee was runner-up to Graeme McDowell last week in the World Match Play Championship, and it came with a consolation prize. Thongchai moved up 10 spots to No. 49 in the world ranking, assuring him a spot in the U.S. Open.
Now the pressure shifts to Chris Wood on the European Tour and Marc Leishman on the PGA Tour.
The end of this week is the first deadline to earn an exemption from the U.S. Open by getting inside the top 60 in the world. Players have one more chance to get inside the top 60 the Sunday before the U.S. Open begins.
Wood is at No. 60 and playing the BMW PGA Championship. Also at Wentworth is Marcus Fraser (No. 65) and Alex Noren (No. 69). Leishman is No. 58 and playing this week at Colonial, along with Russell Henley (No. 55). Among those not playing at Colonial are Jimmy Walker (No. 63) and Charles Howell III (No. 67).
Sunday also is the cutoff to be in the top 50 to earn an exemption to the British Open. Billy Horschel (No. 51) is not playing this week.
BABIES AND MAJORS: Phil Mickelson famously carried a pager with him at Pinehurst No. 2 for the 1999 U.S. Open. Payne Stewart beat him with a par putt on the final hole, and Mickelson's first child (Amanda) was born the next day.
Turns out Mickelson wasn't the only guy who had a beeper at a major. Justin Leonard had one with him at Augusta National, of all places, because his fourth child (Skylar) was due the week after the 2010 Masters.
Not to worry. No rules were broken.
"It was a Masters-issued pager," he said. "I'd never had a pager."
Leonard's four children all were born around golf tournaments. His second daughter, Avery, was born the week before the 2005 Masters. Leonard flew into Augusta National on Wednesday, and then tied for 13th. His oldest daughter, Reese, was born in September 2003. He was near the lead at the John Deere Classic preparing for a 36-hole Sunday when his wife called. Leonard withdrew. His third child, Luke, was born the week of the 2006 British Open, which Leonard did not play.
One thing is clear about golfers and big occasions. They're geared around the schedule.
Hunter Mahan is expecting his first child. Asked when the baby was due, wife Kandi replied, "The week of Greensboro." That would be the third week in August. Louis Oosthuizen said his baby was due Saturday of the U.S. Open.
"We all think that way," Leonard said. "We have no idea what the date is."
Leonard then turned to his daughter, Reese, who was born in September, about three weeks early.
"We thought you were supposed to be a Texas-OU baby," he told her before catching himself. "See, it's still not a date. It's an event."
HOGAN AWARD: Chris Williams, a senior at Washington, has won the Ben Hogan Award as to the year's top college golfer.
Williams is No. 1 in the world amateur ranking and captured the Mark H. McCormack Medal last year for being the top-ranked amateur in the world, giving him a spot in the U.S. Open and British Open this year. He was on the winning American side at the World Amateur Team Championships and won the Western Amateur.
Williams joins Nick Taylor (2010) as the only Huskies player to win the award. He is playing Colonial this week as a perk for winning the award.
COLES RETIRING: Hall of Fame administrator Neil Coles is stepping down as chairman of the board on the European Tour.
Coles became chairman in 1975, the year before a 19-year-old Spaniard named Seve Ballesteros first showed his skill at the British Open. In 38 years, he has overseen the international growth of the tour, along with the development of the Challenge Tour (1989) and European Senior Tour (1992).
The 78-year-old Coles, inducted in 2000 into the World Golf Hall of Fame, said he decided it was time to step down in December, about the same time he agreed that the European Tour board of directors should be restructured.
He still stay on until a successor is found.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as chairman, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve such a prestigious organization in a sport which has been my life, both inside the ropes and inside the boardroom," Coles said.
DIVOTS: Phil Mickelson has decided to play the St. Jude Classic a week before the U.S. Open. He prefers to play the week before a major, and missed out this year when the Houston Open was moved to two weeks before the Masters. ... Luke Donald, the first player to win the money title on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season, last week collected his MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace. ... Jennifer Johnson became the third member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team from 2010 to win on the LPGA Tour. The others were Jessica Korda and Alexis Thompson. ... The Royal Trophy, matches between players from Europe and Asia, will be held Dec. 20-22 at Dragon Lake Golf Club in China.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Six players who were outside the top 200 in the world ranking have won on the PGA Tour this year.
FINAL WORD: "I didn't hit a 1-iron. I hit a 3-hybrid. I think Hogan probably rolled in his grave, to be honest with you." — Graeme McDowell, on playing a shot on the 18th hole at Merion next to the plaque commemorating Ben Hogan's 1-iron in the 1950 U.S. Open.
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