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?
pollcode.com free polls

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.

Lexi's Back, Contending And Adds Another Rules Infraction

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Lexi Thompson is back on the LPGA Tour after taking a short leave to get refreshed and to gather her thoughts after a rough 2017.

And she's back to bad luck on the rules infraction side of things, though this one is most definitely on her shoulders. 

Kevin Casey explains why her taking lift, clean and place relief caused the infraction

More Call On Outright Green Reading Book Ban

Alistair Tait for Golfweek on Laura Davies and Catriona Matthew criticizing the R&A for failing to ban green-reading books outright:

“I think they should ban them completely,” Matthew said. “They’re kind of halfway what’s acceptable, what’s not. If you don’t want people to use them, just ban them outright.”

Matthew, winner of the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open, feels the governing bodies have waited too long.

“I kind of think they’ve got a little out of hand,” Matthew said.

USGA, R&A Hope To Make Green-Reading A Skill Again

An example of what won't be allowed.

An example of what won't be allowed.

The news first reported here by Golfweek during The Open sounds like it will curtail the use of green reading books in competition.

For Immediate Release for those who will be affected by this:

USGA, The R&A Announce Plans to Limit Use of Green-Reading Materials Beginning in 2019

Clarifications reaffirm the position that a player’s ability to read the greens is an essential skill that should be retained; still allows for traditional yardage books, handwritten player and caddie notes

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. AND ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (July 31, 2018) - The USGA and The R&A are proposing regulations regarding the use of green-reading materials, reaffirming the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgment, skill and ability.

Following a six-week period of feedback and consultation with interested parties that begins today, the regulations will be finalized in a published “interpretation” of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) and adopted Jan. 1, 2019, when golf’s new rules take effect.  

“Both the USGA and The R&A are committed to the position that a player’s ability to read their line of play on the putting green is an essential skill that should be retained,” said Thomas Pagel, Senior Director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status for the USGA. “The focus of the interpretation is to develop an approach that is both effective and enforceable.”

David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A, said, “We have looked carefully at the use of these green-reading materials and the extremely detailed information they provide and our view is that they tip the balance too far away from the essential skill and judgment required to read subtle slopes on the greens. It is important to be clear, however, that we still regard the use of yardage books and handwritten notes to be an entirely appropriate part of the game.”  

The key elements of the proposed interpretation are as follows:

  • Minimum Slope Indication Limit – A minimum slope indication limit of 4 percent (2.29 degrees) is proposed (this includes lines, arrows, numbers or any other indicators); this will have the effect of eliminating such indicators of slope from those areas of the putting green where the hole is most likely to be positioned (which tend to be cut on reasonably flat sections of the putting green with a degree of slope of less than 3.5 percent - or 2 degrees). This proposed limit also equates roughly with the amount of slope that is readily visible to the naked eye. 

  • Maximum Scale Limit – A maximum scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) is proposed; this will limit the size in print form to a pocket-sized publication and has the effect of restricting the space for handwritten notes (also referenced below).

  • Indicative Information - General information that is included in traditional yardage books or course guides, such as basic illustrations that show the outline of the putting green and include indicative information like the tops of ridges or general slopes, will continue to be permitted.  

  • Handwritten Notes - Handwritten notes will continue to be allowed, but such notes cannot be used to create either a direct copy or a facsimile (replica) of a detailed green map. 

Interested parties are encouraged to contact the USGA at rules@usga.org or The R&A with questions, feedback or suggestions for improvement prior to Sept. 14, 2018. 

The draft interpretation and illustrations can be viewed here.

The governing bodies will issue the regulation by no later than Oct. 15, 2018 for its planned Jan. 1, 2019 adoption. 

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.