New Rules: Even Tiger Toying With Leaving The Flagstick In

I would have figured the old man is set in his ways, but Bob Harig of ESPN quotes Tiger discussing the new flagstick rules and the Big Cat is warming to the idea. In some situations.

This in particular caught my eye:

"I've been experimenting trying to hit putts downhill at home and see how that feels, and I didn't find that I hit better putts. It just felt like I could hit it more aggressively, which I did. Then I started running it 8 or 9 feet by. It might be more advantageous when we get on faster greens, a little bit more slope, i.e. Augusta. Where you have that sense of security on a 3-footer, a 4-footer down the hill, you can just take a cut at it."

This is going to be fun!

Double-Hit Loophole Artists: Nice Try, But USGA Confirms Penalties Await!

I know you all saw our Morning Drive chat about this on Monday, but as much as I’m enjoying the creativity and skill of trickshot artists who think they found a loophole in the new Rules of Golf, they have not.

As I outline here for Golfweek, the trick shot that spawned a European Tour social video attempting the double hit ignores the very simple word “accidental” in the new more relaxed Rules. The story explains the penalty players will enjoy if they use such a ploy to get around a tree.

Still, nice handwork here by all…


Eduardo: Leaving The Flagstick In Helps To A Point...

Jordan Spieth Predicts Most Amateurs Will Just Ignore The New Drop Rule

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Like many, Jordan Spieth can’t comprehend the notion of being penalized from dropping at shoulder height, as the rules revamp currently calls for.

From Joel Beall’s item at GolfDigest.com:

“What if they just take a drop from the cart path. I don’t think they probably care. They will still drop it from the shoulder. Technically, you take a drop from your shoulder and play out, you could be penalized for that. Doesn’t make much sense.

“It’s a disadvantage to drop it that high, so that one I didn’t really understand fully. It was cool that you’re able to get lower to drop it. I thought you would be able to do it at any height.”

"Absurd" Has Insurmountable Lead In New Drop Rule Sweepstakes!

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The voting suggest the new drop rule is not going over well so far.

After we discussed today on Morning Drive today I heard from several asking the genesis of a lower drop height, answered here in the Golf.com roundtable:

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: The knee-drop looks ridiculous. It exists for a very limited purpose, to stop multiple drops on slopes. I think the professor has it right: a better rule would be to drop anywhere from knee to shoulder height. 

The USGA’s Thomas Pagel also explained to Rex Hoggard at GolfChannel.com that the new drop location, changed from a 1-inch above ground height in the first proposal to knee height, was part of a “package deal.”

“It’s not just a drop from knee-height, but now it’s a focus on the relief area. People say that dropping from shoulder-height is simple, and it is, but under the old rules, there were nine different times you had to re-drop. We wanted to eliminate all those complications,” Pagel said.

“In order to focus on that new relief area, we said, 'Let’s get the player closer to the ground, and if you drop it from knee-height, that ball is going to bounce a little less.'”

Ultimately, however, the act looks awkward. Any player wanting to drop from higher up whether for personal, political or pure inflexibility reasons should be allowed to without the potential for penalty (which is incurred after playing a shot if the drop was not from knee height).

Poll: New Drop Rule Absurd Or Something We'll Forget About In Six Weeks?

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On Monday’s Morning Drive we’ll be talking the new Rule of Golf drop procedure that has golfers letting go of the ball from knee height (8:30 am ET). I think the governing bodies need to revisit this one soon, spoken as someone who has no desire to stretch his hamstrings just to make a drop.

That’s because Bryson DeChambeau, a fit and flexible young lad, looked about as awkward as one can look in the first high-profile drop under the new rules. He called the procedure absurd after his round and most social media watchers agreed. Those with even less-limber hamstrings had to turn away.

Yet in assessing what he heard from players at the Sentry TOC, the USGA’s Thomas Pagel predicted to Golf World’s Dave Shedloski that concern over the awkward look and absurdity of a penalty for dropping at shoulder height (and subsequently playing a shot) will be forgotten in six weeks.

I think you know where I stand, but I’d love to hear what you think…the poll.

About that new knee-height drop...
 
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Bryson "Maximizes His Potential" With The Flagstick In, Just Like He Predicted He Would

Bryson DeChambeau’s naysayers can point to his brief sidesaddle putting method and little else in the imaginative arsenal of ideas he’s brought to the PGA Tour. And right on cue, he backed up his claims of seeing benefits to putting with the flagstick in the hole by doing so at Kapalua where the revised Rules of Golf were in effect.

One of the examples from an opening 69 at the Plantation Course to kick off the 2019 campaign:

After the round, DeChambeau was bullish on the idea even though he had done very little practice with flagstick’s in the cup.

From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek report on the overall impact, with quotes from playing partner Dustin Johnson.

“I feel like I maximized my potential on that,” DeChambeau said. “Especially on 16 today, where it’s kind of blowing downwind, five percent slope, straight downhill, you want that pin in to help. So that’s what I kind of did and utilized it to my advantage. So I felt like for the most part I needed the pin to be in and it went in and it was a very nice help.”

He was playing with Dustin Johnson, who probably spent less time studying the modern rules than DeChambeau spent picking his shirt this morning. Johnson told him before the round he was cool with the whole flagstick thing and to have DeChambeau’s caddie Tim Tucker just handle the flag all day to avoid confusion.

“It’s definitely weird. Well, not weird, it’s just different watching someone putt with the flag in,” Johnson said. “It actually worked out where it wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t slow us down or anything.”

Brandel Chamblee said after the first round display that players will be compelled to research the concept and will find that they make more putts doing this:

First New Rule Teaching Moment: If You're Leaving The Flagstick In, Make That Vital Decision Before The Shot, K?

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With the New Year arrives a refreshed Rules of Golf and thanks to Bubba Watson our first teaching moment!

The Tweet:

Doug Ferguson got the answer from the USGA on whether a penalty is in order.

In this case, the answer would appear to be yes. The decision to remove (or tend) the flag stick, or leave it in, must be made before the stroke.

It’s an example of what awaits for 2019, at least the early part of the year after a five-year project to simplify the Rules of Golf.

So there you have it: leave the flagstick in or don’t. No mid-shop changing your mind!

Video: Players Starting To Ponder The Impact Of Golf's New Rules

Interesting to see we are finally getting some reactions to the upcoming new Rules of Golf as they near a January 1 debut.

Not shockingly, a few (Steve Stricker) are wondering about players getting to massage their lines and what that’ll do to speed of play (the play it as it lies debates will come eventually).

From Golf Central:

2019 Rules Reminder: No Penalty For Double Hits

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We’ll be talking the 2019 Rules of Golf changes this week on Morning Drive and in reading up on some of the newbies, I was reminded that double hits like Tiger’s wipey shot at the 2018 Hero would not have been up for a 25 minute reply discussion.

From the USGA website:

2019 Rule: Under Rule 10.1a, if the player’s club accidentally hits the ball more than once during a single stroke:

  • There will be no penalty and the ball will be played as it lies.

"The rules, with some of the recent changes, are making the player less responsible for what he or she does. And that diminishes the game."

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As he’s prone to do, Michael Bamberger at Golf.com tackles a question many of us were trying to formulate after Tiger’s wipey 2018 Hero Challenge shot resulted in no penalty.

The rule changes taking responsibility off of the player when HD catches something only visible to a modern camera have made great sense. But the introduction of intent questions and other elements have also possibly softened players in Bamberger’s mind. He cites several recent examples where fans felt uneasy about the conclusion and writes:

Any of those actions would have improved the game. Any of those statements would have been a way for a player to say, “The game is bigger than I.” Any of those statements would been an opportunity for the player to take control of the situation in the most honorable way. That’s golf.

Tiger's Wipey Shot Saved By The Replay Rules

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It wasn’t a double hit, but one really long strike of the ball that Tiger Woods says he couldn’t feel.

Here’s the full video posted by the PGA Tour:

Mark Russell’s explanation covers the rule changes that leave HD situations like this up to the player since the long wipe could not be seen with the naked eye. The Decision, for a few weeks longer anyway, is 34-3/10, Limitations on Use of Video Evidence.

From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story:

“Well, Tiger was under a bush and we did determine that he did make a stroke at it. He didn’t scrape or spoon or push the ball. And when he did that, Tiger said that he did not think he hit the ball twice. Looking at it in the regular speed on a high-definition television, you couldn’t tell that at all, but when you slowed it down to ultraslow motion high-definition television, you could see where the club [sic] did stay on the clubface quite a bit of time and it looked like he might have hit it twice, but there’s no way he could tell that.

Kilbridge also posted this blow-by-blow of the situation. He has the time to determine at over 20 minutes, Rex Hoggard had it at 25. That’s kind of a long time for a rule theoretically cut-and-dried.

Maybe they were working off a streaming replay.

Bob Harig notes here that Woods faced a similar rules issue at the 2013 BMW where he was penalized prior to this change in the rules.

If nothing else, the Hero World Challenge round 2 episode is another reminder of positive changes to the HD replay rule and that the 18th hole at Albany is his silly-season kryptonite. It’s also debatable that he took a backswing.

(Mercifully) RIP Soon: Caddies Lining Up Players

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GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell says goodbye to the peculiar LPGA player tendency to have their caddies line them up for a shot, a casualty of the 2019 rules of golf changes.

As most commentators have told us, no one can recall when a player was actually called off a shot by a caddie. Mostly, it just provided an annoyance to television viewers and gave some the perception that female professional golfers needed this odd crutch.

Mell writes of Brittany Lincicome’s use of caddy alignment confirmation throughout her career:

So why do it? For most players like Lincicome, it’s just reassurance. If the rules allow it, why not make sure? For Lincicome, it also has become part of her pre-shot routine.

“It’s really more like a trigger,” Pederson said. “It’s something she will just have to re-establish for next year. I don’t foresee it being a problem. She plays off weeks and in the off season without me lining her up, and she’s fine.”

Lincicome was irritated when she first learned of the rule change, mostly because it was sold as a way to speed the pace of play. Lincicome is one of the fastest players on tour.

Poll: Will Leaving Flagsticks In The Cup Become A Thing In Pro Golf?

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I’m still fascinated by the Golf.com exclusive reporting that Bryson DeChambeau’s plans to start leaving the flagstick in for most putts when the 2019 Rules of Golf kick in.

Given that he just won his fourth tournament in five starts, DeChambeau’s methodology and madness is bound to have some copycats if he proves it to be a useful way to putt.

But some have predicted it will be a visual mess for pro golf, as Hank Haney did. He sees the USGA and R&A having to back off the rule, or face PGA Tour intervention of some kind in the form of a local rule.

I certainly can see where the sight of some players wanting the flag tended and others leaving it in could turn greens into a weird game of Twister as caddies navigate through lines and wait to hear from the player if they want the stick in or out.

There will also be others who test things out with regulation flags in the green and undoubtedly many opinions what works. The Forecaddie has info on the actual PGA Tour stock flagstick, in case you have COR testing to do.

The Golf.com gang batted around the flagstick matter too and scores some points worthy of consideration. This from Luke Kerr-Dineen was spot on:

Kerr-Dineen: If the anchor ban provides the precedent, we can deduce that golf’s rules are decided — at least in part — by how the powers that be want the game to look. It’s not something that’s specific to golf. The NFL is a classic example of legislating the game in a way that makes it more marketable. If the bosses upstairs see Bryson putting with the flagstick in and don’t love the look of it, don’t be surprised to see them “revisit” this rule.

Personally, I can’t comprehend the advantage being worth the visual distraction that is so different from what players are used to. But I also can’t fathom anchoring a putter

This trend could go a few ways and I’d would love to hear what you think. I voted for the top one. Especially if Dave Pelz or others do more testing with putts and see no harm in the practice.

What will happen in 2019 with flagsticks and putting?
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Well Won't 2019 Be Fun: Bryson Intends To Leave Flagstick In While Putting

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At least, until the first putt clanks off the fiberglass and he looks at the innocent synthetic material holding a flag in disgust. Thankfully, flagsticks don’t have feelings.

Nice exclusive here from Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier on Bryson DeChambeau revealing during a photo shoot that at all fiberglass flagstick events, he will be putting with the pin in the hole. The new Rules of Golf will allow for putting with flagsticks in the hole starting January 1, 2019. The change was designed to speed up the game. But the mad scientist has done the calculations and sees another rationale.

“It depends on the COR, the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick,” he said. “In U.S. Opens, I’ll take it out, and every other Tour event, when it’s fiberglass, I’ll leave it in and bounce that ball against the flagstick if I need to.”

It’s interesting that DeChambeau goes on to say he thinks this will make the hole play bigger and that his good, good friends at the USGA will ultimately backtrack on the rule.

I don’t see that, but I could envision a scenario where players start griping about strange things and airing odd grievances.

Or the USGA and R&A could announce a slight increase in the size of the golf ball, fueling conspiracy theories that the move was not to slow down distance but to mess with Bryson.

There will also be the inevitable re-airing of the flagstick vs. pin moniker. But wouldn’t it be fun if the science backs him up.

Who Says He Doesn't Play Well With Others? Patrick Reed Offers A Helping (Backstop) Hand* (*Or Was It Justin Rose)

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*Those who stayed up to watch think Justin Rose was the kind helper. I will review tape Monday to confirm. Until then…my original snark that will happily be transferred to the former World No. 1 if he’s not protecting the field.

Maybe being on a Ryder Cup team bonded them, maybe he’s just lazy, maybe those grooves just really needed cleaning instead of protecting the field, or maybe Patrick Reed is just trying to be less of a maverick by leaving his ball next to the hole. Either way, he did it at the HSBC Champions so that Tony Finau could slow down his bunker shot just like we saw a year ago in Napa.

Yet another example of insidious behavior inside the ropes in the name of faster play when it’s could conveniently save someone strokes no different than turning a blind eye to someone improving their line. At least in a few months when the new rules of golf take hold, players won’t have to pretend to look the other way when a “ball mark” is repaired in their line. Tap away. Too bad the new rules find a way to address this nonsense.

USGA, R&A Budge In Final Green Reading Book Ban

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The full release is here. Golfweek’s Brentley Romine has the highlights of the final announcement.

Here is what was gleaned from the feedback period of the green reading book limitations presented this summer:

Some of the changes made to the original proposal following the feedback period include the removal of: (1) the proposed minimum slope indication limit of 4% and (2) the prohibition against using handwritten notes to create a copy or facsimile of a detailed green map.

Additions to the original proposal include: (1) a new size limit for the printed book/material (restricted to pocket-size), (2) a new prohibition against magnification of putting green information and (3) a new requirement that any hand-drawn or written information must be in a book or on a paper meeting the size limit and must be written by the player and/or his or her caddie.

Reading Mike Stachura’s Golf World account, the author sounds pretty skeptical of Thomas Pagel’s claims on behalf of the USGA suggesting that the limitations will still limit these books in competition.

The new interpretation, however, seems to shift from some of the original proposal’s fundamental convictions. In July, Pagel said, “Basically, the books are giving them a recommended line, and that goes too far. The skill of reading a green was diminishing, quickly going away. And we wanted to make sure it was retained.” But there were two factors that seemed to sway the decision away from specific restrictions on the information in any green-reading book. One was history, and the other was enforcement.

“First, we know the ability to take notes has been part of the game for a very long time, and we did not want to get away from that,” he said. “I also heard loud and clear about the challenge of enforcing the rule. Players were asking, How do I know if my notes are OK? and How do I know if the notes another player has on the other side of the fairway are OK?

Will this turn out to be another anchoring ban that ultimately leaves people wondering if players are skirting the rule? I hope not.

"Our modern wink-wink culture is at odds with what golf is supposed to stand for."

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After reading Golf.com’s Anonymous Tour Pro survey, Michael Bamberger came away disturbed by the suggestions of cheating or bending the rules on the PGA Tour. Bamberger was particularly annoyed with the assertion by one anonymously quoted player that officials are letting the players down.

But the job of enforcing the rules is fundamentally on the players. If the rules officials see a drop going awry, it is their job to step in and make sure it’s done correctly, and that is what they generally do. If one player says the ball crossed at point A and the other point B, the rules officials have to adjudicate, and they generally do. They are not the police. They’re not trying to catch players. Their first job is to help players turn in the most accurate scorecard they can. It is each individual player who serves as a police officer. He should be doing an ongoing and continuing and intense investigation of his own play and the play of the others in his group.

"How long will it take the governing bodies to rescind the new rule that allows players to repair any damage on putting greens?"

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That’s the question Alistair Tait asks for Golfweek as the new rule book has come off the press and the strangest new rule in golf is just months away from debuting. I figured it would take a few years but given the scenarios presented by Tait, it’s easy to envision a revision sooner than later rescinding the right to “repair damage” in your line.

Rest assured, this new rule will unreasonably delay play. It won’t affect the pace of play of fast players. What it will do is allow the snails to slow down even more. Imagine the slowest player you can think of who takes an eternity on the greens. Imagine how many blemishes said player is going to find in his or her line. I can see a situation where players will make four or five repairs on a 15-foot putt. It’s not that long ago I saw a major champion repair three ball marks on a 10-foot putt.

Given the widespread improvement of putting surfaces in golf, perhaps the golf course superintendents of the world will save the governing bodies.

Then again, it could take just one or two weeks where greens are not ideal and the sight of players setting up shop to primp and repair a line will send fans looking for their remotes and TV executives to pick up their red phones.