Hmmmm: R&A Conducts Surprise, Random(?) Driver Test

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Thirty players were greeted with letters from the R&A ordering them to offer up their drivers for a COR test. It's not clear if the tests were random or if the players were specially chosen by their manufacturer affiliation or driving distance average.

Welcome to Scotland!

Tim Rosaforte reports for Golf Channel on what appears to be a step-up in the effort to ensure there are conforming drivers in this week's Open Championship

Keegan Bradley, Brendan Steele and Brooks Koepka all confirmed that their drivers all passed the COR test (coefficient of restitution, or spring-like effect) administered by the R&A.

This was the first time the R&A took measures that were not part of the distance insight project being done in conjunction with the USGA.

 

There are two ways of looking at this. 

The sunny side up take would believe this is just part of normal monitoring and amidst some rumblings that this year's distance increase could be fueled by hot drivers.

The cynical take says this is the act of a desperate governing body looking for something to blame this year's increases on, instead of simply anticipating that a combination of technology, athleticism, fitting and a generation of players reared on modern clubs have passed the testing procedures by. AKA, anything not to do something about the Joint Statement of Principles.

Bryson Reports Positive Compass-Related Talks With USGA

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One can only imagine where the conversations have gone, but even with his trusty compass banned, Bryson DeChambeau says his negotiations with the USGA have gone swimmingly. Next stop, NATO summit!

Kevin Casey highlights several of Bryson's pre-John Deere Classic remarks on the rules controversy that saw his "unusual" device banned.

“I think it was a big step for me to be able to talk with (the USGA) one-on-one, not necessarily going through the (PGA) Tour or anything like that, albeit it’s a great way as well. Nothing against the Tour, but just being able to talk to (the USGA) directly is very, very nice, so that we can have a personal relationship first off and be mutually beneficial.”

At least, until they ban green reading books.

"There is no deterrent if a player knows his (or her) Tour lacks either the process or stomach to expose them."

Great line from Eamon Lynch in his Golfweek column zeroing in on PGA Tour cheating, of which there is very little. Nonetheless, with an incident like last week's Sung Kang drop location refuted by his playing partner Joel Dahmen, not addressing such situations publicly gives the impression of rules enforcement complacency. 

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took a positive step in making public drug test violations. He ought to put in place a similarly transparent process to address credible accusations of cheating. The number of deceitful players is small, but there is no deterrent if a player knows his (or her) Tour lacks either the process or stomach to expose them.

It’s inevitable the Tour’s standing will be impacted if a player is found to have cheated. What is avoidable, however, is tarnishing the hard-earned reputation of the 99 percent with a perception that rogues are shielded from the reckoning they deserve. 

Look no further than slow player as example A when nothing is done. 

Phil Most Definitely Did Not Call A Penalty On Himself

Just weeks after his U.S. Open breach of etiquette and subsequent claim to have used the rules to his advantage, Phil Mickelson breached the same rules he purported to know so well during Sunday's the Greenbrier Classic.

The violation, which I'm pretty sure 99.9% of PGA Tour pros know is a no-no:

The conversation with official Robby Ware:

It's fascinating to see the PGA Tour on all of its social media accounts billing this as a player calling a penalty on himself. It's an unusually desperate and ignorant position to take from the land of #LiveUnderPar (well except in this case). 

To review: Mickelson asked a question sensing he might have violated the rules and likely anticipated someone spotting the violation on the PGA Tour Live telecast. He got the explanation from Robby Ware and was subsequently penalized after Ware double checked, out of kindness.

So please, whether this "called a penalty on himself" nonsense is born out of ignorance or just a marketing effort to show that living under par means calling penalties on oneself, do not lump this incident with the many folks who have called penalties that no one else could see or possibly have known about. Especially since many of those incidents, which we rightly hold up  for being incredible displays of integrity, happened because the player could not live with themselves thinking they had violated the rules.

Phil's case was a simple act of ignorance. He would have been assessed a penalty after a those monitoring the telecast would have passed the word along of his silly-stupid move.  

Unless, of course, no one was watching PGA Tour Live. A very real possibility. 

Rules Of Golf Double Standard? USGA Says Bryson's Compass Use Violates Rule 14-3

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In reading the USGA statement on Bryson DeChambeau's use of a compass, it's easy to see how they determined it to not be a "usual piece of equipment," just as the Rules forbid. (Rex Hoggard had the statement here first, and here is Golfweek's Kevin Casey with a roundup of the back and forth over Bryson and his compass, including the full statement and rule reading. 

The compass and protractor work Bryson was doing certainly could be seen as fitting this description:

Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an abnormal manner:

a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or

b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; 

One reason the compass and protractor yardage checking might not be a usual device? Most golfers, caddies and others would not know what to do with them! 

Also fitting the Rules description for unusual devices assisting play would be yardage books with gradients shot by rangefinders that disallowed in competition, and of course, green reading books which are now a usual piece of equipment because they were not immediately deemed unusual soon enough.

The same green reading books where he was using his protractor to double check a hole location!

Do these inconsistencies undermine the credibility of golf's Rules? How can they not? 

Dahmen V. Kang: The PGA Tour And An Increasingly Complicated Relationship With The Rules Of Golf

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With no incentive to induce a headache other than acting as a professional golfer protecting the field, Joel Dahmen spoke out when asked by a fan about a bogus drop he saw Sung Kang take at the Quicken Loans National. (Kang finished third and earned a spot in The Open.)

A witness and ShotLink volunteer corroborated Dahmen's account with not a shred of doubt about what he saw, reports Bill Speros. The dispute grew so heated that they even let a group go through as Dahmen sought to protect the field and Kang insisted his ball started over dry land before a last minute plunge into the TPC Potomac hazard. 

The PGA Tour backed Kang's account of the drop and suggested an absence of clear evidence:

“A PGA Tour Rules Official handled the ruling, interviewing both players, caddies and marshals in the vicinity. The official then took Kang back to where he hit his second shot, and Kang confirmed his original belief that his shot had indeed crossed the margin of the hazard. With no clear evidence to prove otherwise, it was determined by the official that Kang could proceed with his fourth shot as intended, following a penalty stroke and subsequent drop. The PGA Tour will have no additional comment on this matter.”

While ShotLink is manned by volunteers working long hours and prone to the occasional mistake, they are generally very good at the most basic task: zero in on the ball and mark it for the computers to do their thing. The account of Dahmen, when combined with his anger at the choice by Kang to drop closer to the hole and Kang's claim of being "95% sure" where his ball crossed, sound dreadful given how much we know today's players are loathe to call out their peers in the PGA Tour's increasingly fraternal culture. 

Meanwhile, the corresponding ShotLink depiction of the ball's landing spot suggests Kang's ball would have needed to take a hard last minute hook into the hazard. Dahmen's concern was backed up by ShotLink volunteer Michael Klosk's account to Golfweek:

“Kang was insistent (’95 percent sure’ in his own words) his ball came back and entered the hazard at about 35 yards out. I caught bits and pieces of the exchange, but the rules official did quote ’95 percent sure is not 100 percent sure’ before driving Kang back to look at the line again. Kang then returned and argued some more with Dahmen, to which (Dahmen) replied, ‘If you can sleep at night, then take your drop,'” Klock said in an email to Golfweek detailing the encounter.

The incident lands as the PGA Tour and several players have begun to chip away at the Rules of Golf. Consider:

--The PGA Tour has never issued a statement about the backstopping practice even after Jimmy Walker wrote on Twitter that he leaves a ball down for those he likes or feels sorry for. Any player who might mark their ball in a desire to protect the field, is now seen as not "one of the boys."

--The PGA Tour openly defied the USGA and R&A's views on distance and seems poised to fight any effort to protect the role of skill in golf in order to market the athleticism of today's players. 

--Phil Mickelson stopped his ball from rolling down a slope at the U.S. Open and has not been --condemned or fined (to our knowledge) for conduct unbecoming. Two young superstars found his behavior funny. 

--For years players have regularly "fixed a ball mark" without asking their playing partner for approval. It's apparent they really just want to smooth out a blemish in the green. The practice is so pervasive that we now have the dreadful new 2019 rule of golf allowing for players to pamper their line to the hole.

--The PGA Tour has resisted empowering officials to hand out slow play penalties for years, with former Commish Tim Finchem even declaring that he didn't see such rules enforcement as necessary.

--Under Finchem's watch, the PGA Tour steadfastly refused to support drug testing until golf wanted to join the Olympic movement. 

Add it all up and the optics are deteriorating. The PGA Tour acts like rules are more of an annoyance than serving as the foundation for maintaining golf's special place in the sporting universe. For years players have barked about making their own rules--usually after a USGA course setup blunder--but the players then remind us why that would not be a good idea.

Over time, the PGA Tour has been able to avoid being seen as condoning shady behavior by making sure the guys take their hats off to shake hands, donating more than all other sports (combined) to charity, and banking on sponsors to keep supporting these (mostly) high-integrity athletes. 

The problem now? Legalized gambling is coming. Golf is seen as a potentially lucrative opportunity, one that will dry up the minute bettors think the bro culture that bred backstopping and this peculiar culture of devaluing the importance of rules for unclear reasons.

And how long before the folks putting their sponsorship dollars on golf wonder what other rules-workarounds the players are up to? Or worse, when will sponsors see incidents like Dahmen v. Kang or players leaving a ball down as a backstop for a buddy, and question the price they pay to be associated with a sport known for its adherence to rules, not its ability to fudge the rules.

Yes the Rules of Golf are wordy and annoying. Especially when you just want to tap a bump in the green or when asking players to take their medicine when hitting a bad shot into a hazard. But the rules are also in place to help Joel Dahmen's of the world protect the field. The PGA Tour needs to start taking them as seriously as Joel Dahmen did Sunday at the Quicken Loans National. 

Lexi Reveals Just How Much Grief Last Year's ANA Penalty Caused

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Powerful stuff from Lexi Thompson at her ANA Inspiration press conference a year removed from the four-stroke penalty that cost her a major. 

Penalties, which, by the way, could not happen again thanks to changes in the rules, as Larry Bohannan explains in the Desert Sun.

From Beth Ann Nichols' Golfweek story:

“That night was extremely rough,” said Thompson of the hours that followed the toughest loss of her career. “I was screaming, crying. You know, I’ve re-lived it for a while. I had nightmares about it. You know, I still occasionally do.”
Thompson, 23, cried on every tee shot that followed her encounter with rules officials after the 12th hole. She said it was the fans who allowed her to finish the way she did.
“I heard them chanting my name on every shot, every tee,” she said. “I heard them on the green chanting my name, and I was like, I have to finish strong for them.” 

Rules Simplification: Be Careful What You Wish For, Pros

As we near the USGA and R&A rolling out their extensive, exciting and bold simplification of the 2019 Rules of Golf, Ryan Herrington at Golf World makes a shrewd point worth checking out: be careful what you wish for elite players.

After all, simpler rules mean you better know them!

With so many sections and subsections and sub-subsections, if you broke a Rule because you didn’t know it was a Rule to begin with, you often were forgiven for making an honest mistake. With a modernized Rules book, that defense becomes far more flimsy.

Indeed, if the Rules are going to be easier to understand, then golfers are going to be expected to genuinely understand them. In particular, golfers who make a living playing the game.

In that respect, the modernized Rules may well present a new set of challenges when they finally go online on New Year’s Day 2019.

Will Golf Be Worse Off By Rules Taking Onus Off The Player?

That's the pointed question Michael Bamberger poses for Golf.com after the USGA and R&A announced the end to viewer call-ins, penalties for scorecard signing issues caused by retroactive penalties and the creation of dedicated replay watchers.

Bamberger sees the change as "soft" and his view was echoed by some rules experts I heard from in response to the rule:

How about the responsibility to know the rules and to play by them? How about doing it correctly the first time? The whole ball-dropping issue with Tiger Woods at 15 in the Saturday round of the 2013 Masters was that he dropped incorrectly. The whole ball-marking issue with Thompson at the ANA Inspiration was that she marked incorrectly. Neither player ever stood up and said, "I take responsibility for this whole mess."

Golf, by tradition, is severe, austere, Calvinistic. Every aspect of it. That's why the spectators are quiet. That's why one player does nothing to interfere with another. That's why Joe Dey, the first PGA Tour commissioner, late of the USGA, carried a bible in one pocket and a rule book in the other when he officiated.  

I certainly agree that there is a softening effect worth considering, particularly if the softening actually leads to something worse than mere player ignorance of the rules. If there is an opening created here, as Bamberger contends, does it lead to players bending the rules out of ignorance or entitlement? A case could be made that we already see that with backstopping or the current ball mark fixing of non-ball marks on greens.

I can see where some “softening” is acceptable.

However, from the player perspective the rules have become cumbersome and with an audience looking to catch you doing something wrong and needing HD to do it, I can see where some "softening" is acceptable. Crossing the line into rule bending or breaking is where things get scary for the game's integrity.

Why Could Replay Reviews Still Occur After A Card Is Signed?

This remains the one question I have from Monday's announcement of an end to viewer call-in tips and penalties for signing cards that were thought to have been signed correctly at the time.

As explained by theUSGA's Thomas Pagel and R&A's David Rickman, a review could still take place on, say, Friday, after something occurred on Thursday. Only now, the player will not be penalized for signing an incorrect card should a penalty be assessed by the review.

As we noted onMorning Drive, this leaves open the question of how such a delayed review would take place if the tour's had an official watching the live telecasts. Any review over a few minutes past the round's conclusion would only occur because the official missed it the first time. In this case, the official would only be working off of some sort of outside tip to review a possible infraction.

Ron Sirak, appearing a few minutes before me on Morning Drive, raised the suggestion of reviews no longer happening once the card is signed.I would agree.

I'm sure the tours and governing bodies have considered scenarios and have their reasons. Then again, we thought going from DQ to penalty strokes would solve things and as Ryan Herrington notes at Golf World, that wasn't so.

Interestingly, the two-stroke penalty only went into effect in 2016 when USGA and R&A implemented the most recent changes to the Rules of Golf. Prior to that, players would be disqualified if they had signed their scorecards and were later found to have committed a penalty that they had not accounted. In changing the rule to be more lenient, officials acknowledged a DQ was a punishment that didn’t fit the crime.

Lexi Thompson, the cause for this emergency local rule, praised the organizations.

Golfweek's roundup of player reactions is here. Lexi's post:

I was informed of the two rule changes this morning from my management team at Blue Giraffe Sports. I applaud the USGA and the R & A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf. In my case, I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future. I just finished an amazing week at the QBE Shark Shooutout in Naples, and I am excited to begin my offseason. I will have no further comment on these changes as I look forward to now spending time with my family and friends. I hope everyone has an awesome Holiday season, and I wish everyone a healthy and happy 2018! 🎁

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:32am PST

Add John Paramor To The Anti-Green Reading Books List

Legendary European Tour rules official John Paramor, who restored order during the chaos of Jordan Spieth's errant Birkdale tee shot and who has no patience for slow play, talks to Golf World's John Huggan about his four decade career. Among the topics are rulings he's given, rules he'd like tweaked and his input on the upcoming rules revision.

He offered this on green reading books, which have generally been a pace of play nuisance.

Then there are the so-called “green books” you see people using when putting. Paramor has opinions there, too. “I recently asked Phil Mickelson what he thought about them. He feels they are a good thing. They are good for pace of play. They clear up a lot of the questions a player might have. Which is a valid point.

Actually, I don't think it is but go on...

"But I have to say I think they are a de-skilling of the game. Part of this game is making your own judgement about how your ball is going to roll across a green. It’s not for you to find that out on a piece of paper.”

I've seen two instances now of players blaming the books for a putt not breaking as it was supposed to on paper and it's more satisfying to witness than I ever imagined!

So as long they take 45 seconds or less, let them keep staring at the paper I say.

Old Guys Backstop Too! Will Henrik Do This In A Ryder Cup Match?

There is a much undermining interest in Shanghai's WGC event. The limited field, slow play, mediocre architecture and even $43,000 in purse pay for guys who get DQ'd. The cherry on the Sunday sundae came with some veteran backstopping, that confirmed this PGA Tour "product" was more exhibition than a serious event.

And while I don't want to pick on Stenson for slow play given the overall pace of the rounds, he did take a robust minute and 48 seconds in the ninth fairway Sunday. This happened after waiting on the group in front of himself, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.  (The fast-playing DJ leaned hard on his club the entire time).

The pacing was interesting given Stenson's views earlier in the week suggesting the Shot Clock Masters won't have much impact due to pro golfers playing ready golf.

But it was Stenson's generous move to leave a wedge shot by the hole as a backstop, even though both Johnson and Koepka faced plugged bunker lies (and boy do they sure play fast when given a backstop!).

Even though the two players were two strokes ahead of Stenson on the leaderboard, Stenson did not feel obliged to protect the field or his own welfare, prompting a fun set of comments from Golf Channel's Phil Blackmar about how the game has changed. The backstopping:

 

 

Thought: there is a better than decent chance Johnson and Koepka could play Stenson and eventual HSBC Champions winner Justin Rose in next year's Ryder Cup. I wonder if Stenson would leave his ball down as a backstop then? If so, then the game really has changed!

Video Roundup: Stymies Versus Backstopping

In this week's Golfweek digital and now posted online, Brentley Romine and I debate the men's pro golf backstopping practice.

On Twitter, I've gotten a very frequent reply that goes like this: you want the stymie back but you are offended when players leave a ball down (in a form of silent, possibly creepy collusion that does not protect the field.)

Yes. I am offended by backstopping and hope we return the stymie to match play.

Because in match play, golf would be faster and far more confrontational if players could clean their ball, then leave it down the rest of the way to the hole. Foursomes, four-balls, individual matches, you name it would all have occasional moments of social-media-friendly drama. Virality, baby!

But backstopping suggests an element of rule-bending and collusion that can only damage perceptions of a clubby sport that is generally very honest, but does strike some as too fraternal at times.

The stymie is only interesting in match play, where we never see backstopping occur. Furthermore, a ball stymied by a match play opponent is an overtly hostile gesture, while backstopping is a mysteriously complacent act of notifying the competition that you are willing to assist them, free of charge.

For those who are not familiar with the stymie's place in the game and not owners of Bobby Jones' Golf Is My Game (1960), I can at least steer you to some video thanks to the wonders of YouTube.

Graphic viewing warning: these clips are all in black and white while involving evidence of people playing the game (well) prior to the year 2000.

First up, check out Sam Snead beating Johnny Palmer in the 1949 PGA at Belmont. At the :28 second mark watch how Snead tries to stymie Palmer, to no avail. The complete opposite of backstopping. 


Next, check out Charles Coe vs Nick Chapman at the :20 mark for a fantastic stymie and one that would freak out today's backstoppers in the 1951 British Amateur final, one of the last played with stymies in effect:

Also in 1951, the USA retained the Walker Cup in spite of a delicious stymie situation viewable at the 1:22 mark. The sun has continued to rise in the east since. 

At the :15 second mark of this 1948 PGA Championship highlight reel--when the event was still contested at match play--Ben Hogan is stymied and you can just feel Hogan’s enthusiasm as he pulls out wedge on a green. But what great entertainment and competitive edge this brought to the proceedings!

And at the 1933 Ryder Cup highlights, go to the 1:28 mark for a delicious reminder that the stymie was once part of the Ryder Cup, and dream of the possibilities today before remembering that we live in a golf culture where the players seek to help their friends, not clash competitive with them.

Southgate Speaks: "I take full responsibility"

James Corrigan of The Telegraph talks to Matthew Southgate about the heartbreaking penalty incurred during the Web.com Tour Playoffs that cost him a PGA Tour card.

From Corrigan's story:

“It was poor from me to not know the rules of a game I’ve played since I was two. I take full responsibility. ­People say it’s bad luck but it’s not bad luck because I should have replayed the shot and could have made four. But I didn’t and it became nine, and that ­became me missing my card. I’ve only got myself to blame. I’m not annoyed with anyone else.”

The best wishes of his peers have not assisted much either; and neither has their collective ignorance. I asked 10 different pros at the Dunhill Links if they were aware of that particular rule and all admitted they were not.

Rules Of Golf Input Window Closed, "Common Themes" Emerge

You can read the full USGA/R&A press release online at some point, but it sounds like many golfers shared strong opinions on the boldest proposed Rules of Golf changes.

What those opinions were, we are still not sure but this is our hint until the two governing bodies play a lot of golf take many meetings mulling the possibilities.

•    Golfers provided the most feedback on the proposed Rules changes focused on the putting green (such as putting with the flagstick left in the hole, repairing spike marks and eliminating the penalty for accidentally moving a ball); the creation of “penalty areas” (extending water hazard type relief and eliminating penalties for moving loose impediments and grounding a club); and the new dropping procedures (including the size of “relief areas”). 

Anything To Play Faster Files: Even Higher-Profile Backstopping

Here's the fun thing about this bizarro trend of men's professional golfers leaving their chip shots around the hole, all in the name of slow play: they are getting more brazen. Even better, this is going to help us bring back the stymie!

The backstopping/sideboarding practice of leaving your ball down--in the name of speeding up play of course--used to be something that only happened in lower profile situations. Increasingly though big name players in big name pairings have been so eager to speed up play, they are willing to not protect the field by leaving their ball in a place that might help their fellow PGA Tour brother competitor. Of course to do so knowingly results in disqualification under the Rules.

And for those who say it doesn't happen, may I refresh your memories here.

This was Saturday with the Spieth-DJ pairing at the 2017 Dell Technologies (link here if the embed doesn't work):

The practice, which only seems to be happening in men's pro golf, is also continuing in Europe. This was Saturday and an all timer given the proximity of the playing partners who just couldn't take that extra 7 seconds to mark their ball.

Here's the bad news: as this strange, buddy-buddy, backscratching practice picks up steam, someone will stand fifteen feet from his ball, watch his ball get hit by another player who then makes par instead of bogey. That player will ends up winning a tournament by a shot or costing someone his card and will be publicly shamed. His reputation might even be ruined. And all for just doing what everyone does every day on the tour because that's how they play the game out there.

And play will still be slow. This practice might be cutting 20-30 seconds a round.

Yet guys will still mark 18 inchers to not step in a through line, but they'll leave their ball down 18 inches from the hole to help out a buddy who might help them later in the round.

I know shining a light on suspect behavior is upsetting for many in a sport where the players are generally the most honest and upstanding in all of sports. But as a clubby sport by nature that values protecting those who have joined the gang, suggests image of those who stick together over good, old-fashioned competition. As a sport, if fans sense the players are just playing week to week hoping for their shot and helping their buddies out at other times, pro golf will ultimately lose a certain edge and purity if a practice like this continues.

Oh, and there is also the "what other rules are they bending" question that is so dangerous to a sport's reputation.

Brandel Chamblee engaged with readers on the topic Saturday after the above incident. The original questioner deleted his question, but it's a nice mix of those who see this for what it is (some bizarre tacit agreement that has festered) and those who believe the guys just are trying to speed things up.

Deadlines! Tour TV Opt Out, Proposed Rules Of Golf Changes

Just a reminder to the folks down in Ponte Vedra, you have until September 1 to get out of your current network deal and imagine a new television future! Oh, right, you know this.

Of more interest to the majority of golfers is this week's deadline, also September 1, to submit suggestions for the upcoming Rules of Golf re-thinking.

I'm still not a fan of dropping the ball one inch from the ground or tapping spike marks, and we'll see if the governing bodies heard from many on those topics.

The SI/Golf.com gang had a good (and perhaps motivational exchange) on this and many other topics in golf:

Ritter: We're getting there, USGA! I like the proposed changes, but we still need to do more to address the one true scourge of golf: slow play. How about a shot clock on Tour—just for a trial period to see how it goes?

Sens: Hate to sound like Ritter's pet parrot, but I'll agree with him again here. I just played a weekend round that took five hours and 50 minutes. Inexcusable. And clearly the result of too many people emulating Tour pros in all the wrong ways. Put the pros on a tighter shot clock and enforce it. Playing quicker just becomes a necessary skill to be successful, like a QB who gets his passes off before the rush hits. In the meantime, that pesky stroke-and-distance matter could still use some addressing.

Shipnuck: Yeah, ditching O.B. and making all of it red stakes would be a great start. While we're at it, how about a free drop from sand-filled divot holes in the fairway, too?

Bamberger: The rule changes are so minor they will make no impact on the game as we play it and only a slight impact on the elite game. Getting out some red paint would have been a real change and I think an improvement.

Watch Rickie Leave His Ball Down As A Backstop

It's great to hear from readers who reported Jim Nantz joining those critical of backstopping chip shots by not marking a ball before a playing partner plays. His "inexplicable" comment has been preceded on past telecasts by CBS colleagues Peter Kostis, Ian Baker-Finch and Dottie Pepper criticizing the fundamentally strange choice by pro golfers to leave their ball down to slow down a wayward competitor's shot.

As we have learned from defenders of this behavior, players are merely wanting to play as fast as possible. The practice does not take place on weekends of majors or in match play, and rarely in the televised weekend windows. But as it has become more accepted on the PGA Tour, the act has become so normalized that it seeped into weekends and now majors. (Some players do not partake and behind the scenes are branded bad apples because they don't play "the game the right way" or other similar coded nonsense.)

Thanks to Michael Power for this particularly bold example from Rickie Fowler during round three at the 2017 PGA. Since Saturday was a dreadful 5.5 hour round where speed of play was not going to be appreciably improved by taking another 10 seconds to mark a ball before the next shot was played toward the hole, it's tough to write this off as a pace effort. 

No, today's players simply like to help their buddies in hopes of receiving similar support for their own wayward chip shots. Mercifully, the Golf Gods are always watching and taking notes.

Still, this one is fascinating to watch because you can see the shot stop rolling and watch Fowler as he determines it's of the helping-not-hurting variety, and turns to watch his playing partner knowing it's a backstopping situation.

Here's the link should the embedded video does not play: