What Could Go Wrong Files: Euro Tour Players Must Walk Through Heineken Tent To Get From Green To Tee

I realize it’s Denmark and it’s no Long Island, but this seems like a nightmare waiting to happen at the European Tour’s Made in Denmark stop. Perhaps if the tent didn’t involve an alcoholic beverage, that might ease some concern.

Maybe we can get a European Tour social video showing a player and caddy going in one way and coming out another? I’ll leave the outcome to their imagination.

Pelley "Perplexed" Why European Tour Is Singled Out For Saudi Arabia Event

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Whatever bloom was on the Keith Pelley rose is in pieces on the garden ground after last week’s executions in Saudi Arabia are juxtaposed against the European Tour Chief’s latest comments.

Speaking to Andrew Both of Reuters, Pelley defended the moribund embarrassment of a tournament hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the story notes the killing of American-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy last October, though even more incredible human rights violations have since occurred, from beheading teenagers last week and the escalating human rights crisis in Yemen.

“It was the right decision for our tour,” Canadian Pelley told Reuters.

“We will be back in Saudi and we’ll continue to grow that event. We believe our role will help the evolution of the country.”

Grow, as in get the spectator count over 100 and pad those appearance fees for players.

Pelley whined about golf getting singled out, though he neglected to mention that three of professional tennis’s biggest names ultimately took a rain check on accepting the Crown Prince’s money last fall. Pelley sounds smitten:

“I went over there first and listened to his Excellency (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) at a sports conference, talk about how ... the country wanted to change, needed to change, wanted to use sports as a catalyst, was committed to golf.”

I don’t think golf is going to attach heads savagely taken off by sword in a public square and I’m pretty sure there won’t be a charitable component next year to help starving children. But maybe the European Tour chief knows something we do not?

On a much less significant note, Pelley’s determination to stage this event with such a vile creature permanently stained his legacy as rumors continue to have him with one foot out the door. By digging in and making comments tone deaf to the humanitarian issues, he may stain the sport by not simply keeping his tour away out of a business relationship with a dark, disturbed and deplorable man.

Slow Play Wars: Molinari Posts Bad Time And Fines, GMac Says It's Old News

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Edoardo Molinari, former US Amateur champion, European Tour golfer and brother of The Open champion, has taken taken the slow play debate up a few notches while helping us figure out who should not play the Slow Play Masters.

He first posted this after his 5:30 minute round in the Trophy Hussan in Morocco:

Encouraged by his Twitter followers, he posted these “bad times” and the (very few) fines that ensued. These are European Tour times but obviously included the Masters given the names that popped up.

When asked about the effort, Graeme McDowell reiterated what most players and tour officials tend to say about slow play discussions: old news, we play for a lot of money, deal with it.

From Brentley Romine’s GolfChannel.com report:

“It’s not a dead horse, but it’s pretty dead. What do you want to do? We can’t get around there much quicker. Is 20 minutes going to change his life? Listen, I like Edoardo, nice kid, but I think he’s just frustrated.”

McDowell pointed out that he feels like the pace-of-play policy on the European Tour is more stringent than the PGA Tour’s policy, though he said even that is “getting tougher and tougher.”

“Listen, golf courses are long, golf courses are hard, we’re playing for a lot of money, it’s a big business, it is what it is,” McDowell said. “There’s just no way to speed the game up really. You can try these small percentiles, but at the end of the day it’s very hard to get around a 7,600-yard golf course with tucked pins with a three-ball in less than 4:45, 5 hours. You can’t do it.”

He is correct that getting around such a big course at modern speeds is becoming all but impossible, particularly given the back-ups on par-5s and drivable par-4s.

Of course, there could be remedies to this…

World Ranking Points System Coming Under Increasing Scrutiny, Providing Unintended Comic Relief

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There’s actually much to laugh at in Doug Ferguson’s AP story on the world ranking points system coming under increased scrutiny of late. Comedy and the OWGR are not usually mutually exclusive, but this has to be one of better giggles you’ll get today:

Against a field as strong as some majors, Tommy Fleetwood shared the lead after 18 and 36 holes, played in the final group and was still in the mix at The Players Championship until a tee shot into the water on the 17th hole. His three-way tie for fifth was worth 16.53 ranking points.

Earlier that day, Guido Migliozzi won his first European Tour title at the Kenya Open, which until this year was a Challenge Tour event. The strength of its field was slightly weaker than the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on the Asian Development Tour in January.

Migliozzi received 24 ranking points, the minimum for the European Tour.

Of course this is no laughing matter given the reliance on the OWGR to determine major fields, including two weeks from now when the Masters invites the top 50 not already exempt.

No-Deal Brexit Could Be A Headache For The Open, European Tour

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With the March 29th deadline looming, R&A Chief Martin Slumbers explains how the failure to reach a Brexit deal could have huge ramifications for The Open at Royal Portrush.

From Alistair Tait’s Golfweek story:

A no-deal Brexit could potentially see the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland, something Slumbers could do without.

“The future of the border is our number one concern. We’ve got over 2,000 containers to get across the Irish Sea.

“The problem is we don’t know whether to reschedule to bring all our containers in through Dublin, whether to move them through Belfast, whether to ship them out of the UK now. That’s the biggest concern, and there are other aspects that make Brexit potentially very complex.”

Hey how about us people who have to cross those borders!

As for the European Tour, exchange rates are Keith Pelley’s primary concern:

“When we talk about Brexit it always comes back to how it will affect foreign exchange rates, and how it would affect prize money,” Pelley said. “That’s the crux for the European Tour.”

Sergio Says "Emotional, Personal news" Played Role In Petulant Saudi Arabia Showing

We all certainly wish the best for anyone in the sport receiving bad news in the middle of a tournament, though nearly two weeks after a bunker meltdown and on-course vandalism of five-greens, Sergio Garcia tells Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis that there was more to his rough week in Saudi Arabia.

From Rex Hoggard’s report on the Golf Central interview:

“I received some very emotional, personal news earlier that week that didn’t help. It was in the back of my mind. As I became frustrated on the course everything erupted,” Garcia told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis on Wednesday ahead of the Genesis Open.

Garcia didn’t go into detail about the personal news but said he spent last week reflecting on his behavior at the European Tour event, where he damaged several greens and was disqualified for what officials deemed “serious misconduct.”

“It was a mix of some emotional and personal things going on and a little frustration with the greens,” said Garcia, who also issued an apology on Tuesday via social media.

The full interview aired on Golf Central and will be posted online.

AP’s Doug Ferguson also talked to Garcia and several of his peers. Garcia admitted he agreed with Brooks Koepka’s recent assessment and also took hits from Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.

This from McIlroy:

"It doesn't matter where you're from. It's not acceptable," McIlroy said. "If you've got stuff bothering you, let the course be your sanctuary. I've had to deal with that in the past."

Tony Jacklin: Sergio Deserves A Suspension, Made Fool Of Himself, Needs Break From The Game

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Tony Jimenez with a Daily Express story after talking with English great and former Ryder Cup captain Tony Jacklin about Sergio Garcia’s antics last week in Saudi Arabia.

“It was worthy of more than disqualification. I’d have banned him. Damaging greens on a golf course is an offence that deserves a suspension.

“The European Tour have said the incident is over and it’s time to move on. Well, if he’s not going to be banned, then I’d like to see him take a self-imposed break from the game.

“I think he needs time to realise how fortunate he is, at 39, to have everything money can buy, a young family and everything to be grateful for,” said Jacklin, the most successful captain in European Ryder Cup history and winner of the 1969 Open and 1970 US Open.

“To see his frustration spill over the way it did last week shows he’s not in a well-balanced state of mind. There seems to be an anger within him and golf is a game you can’t play angry.”

He will and the European Tour will not discourage it even if time off is in Garcia’s best interest.

To recap, Garcia vandalized greens, leaving damage behind for other players to deal with. He threw a bunker hissy fit for the ages over a bad rake job the day prior. European Tour Chief Keith Pelley says the matter is closed.

Garcia is set to play in Los Angeles next week.

Clarifying Alignment Clarifications: Haotong Li Still Would Be Penalized

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Lots to unpack on the caddie alignment saga, so let’s start with the USGA’s release bullet points summarized here for Golfweek.

The update issued Wednesday could be confusing with so much language and follow up points when actually very little was changed.

So here’s a quick summary since my initial reading assumed Haotong Li would not have been penalized. Turns out, he still would be under this reading because his caddie was aware he was deliberately behind him when he took his stance and proved this awareness when he tried to walk away as Li moved into his stance.

Li could have backed off and things would have been fine. This escape clause now extends to all shots, not just the putting green exception.

As for Denny McCarthy in Scottsdale, the governing bodies concluded he had not taken a stance and therefore the initial penalty call was incorrect. So while the PGA Tour rescinded the penalty and the USGA/R&A took a hit from players jubilant that the Tour had their back, the change was actually made because of an incorrect ruling.

That said, the incorrect ruling stemmed not from official incompetence but the overall confusing nature of the rule and debatable nature of whether McCarthy took a stance.


If you’re still wanting more, here goes…

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. and ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Feb. 6, 2019) – The USGA and The R&A have provided two clarifications to Rule 10.2b(4) regarding restrictions on caddies standing behind players, which take effect immediately. 

The purpose of Rule 10.2 is to reinforce the fundamental challenge of making a stroke and to limit the advice and other help a player may receive during a round. 

Rule 10.2b(4) ensures that aiming at the intended target is a challenge that the player must overcome alone. It states:

“When a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made, the player’s caddie must not deliberately stand in a location on or close to the player’s line of play behind the ball for any reason. If the player takes a stance in breach of this Rule, he or she cannot avoid penalty by backing away.”  

Exception – Ball on Putting Green: When the player’s ball is on the putting green, there is no penalty under this Rule if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take the stance again until after the caddie has moved out of that location.”

The two clarifications provided today can be summarized as follows: 

  • Meaning of “Begins Taking a Stance for the Stroke”:  If a player backs away from a stance, the player is not considered to have begun “a stance for the stroke.” Therefore, a player can now back away from his or her stance anywhere on the course and avoid a breach of Rule 10.2b(4) if the caddie had been standing in a location behind the ball. 

  • Examples of When a Caddie is Not “Deliberately” Standing Behind the Ball When a Player Begins Taking Stance for Stroke: As written, the Rule does not apply if a caddie is not deliberately standing behind a player. It is clarified that the term “deliberately” requires a caddie to be aware that 1) the player is beginning to take a stance for the stroke to be played and 2) he or she (the caddie) is standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball. Several examples are given in the clarification to provide additional guidance.

The complete language to these two clarifications can be found here

These major clarifications confirm the recent rulings given in relation to Rule 10.2b(4).  

Clarifications provide additional guidance on a Rule based on the circumstances that may arise in applying it. They are part of an ongoing list provided to players and referees.    

“Experience has taught us that introducing a new Rule requires us to balance patience with a willingness to act quickly when necessary,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior managing director of Governance. “With so many pivotal changes to the Rules this year, we’ve committed to offering any assistance needed in making the Rules easier to understand and apply, without taking away the inherent challenge of playing the game. We appreciate that everyone involved in drafting these clarifications worked together with this same goal in mind.”

David Rickman, executive director – Governance at The R&A, said, “These clarifications are designed to improve the operation of the Rule and give the players more opportunity to avoid a breach while remaining true to the purpose of the Rule. We appreciate that this requires some players and caddies to make an adjustment, but we believe there is widespread acceptance that it is for the player alone to line up a shot.”

Brooks On Sergio's Meltdown: “To act like a child out there is not cool."

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As the European Tour shields Sergio Garcia from the punishment he deserves for vandalizing the field of play a day after a childish bunker tantrum (also to damage playing surfaces he found improperly groomed to his standards), he’s been called out by last year’s two-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

Appearing on the Playing Through podcast, worth a listen to hear the full context and all of his comments, the disdain in Koepka’s voice as well as his defense of course conditions only reinforces just how desperately Garcia needs time off.

From GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker, co-host of the pod, with just one of Koepka’s quotes:

“Ugh, it's frustrating as a player to see, to act like that, to disrespect everybody,” said Koepka, who was playing two groups in front of the former Masters champion but didn’t know what happened until afterward. “To act like a child out there is not cool. It's not setting a good example and it's not cool to us, showing us no respect or anybody else.”

Matt Adams and I discussed where Garcia’s antics fall in the pantheon of scandalous on-field acts during today’s Golf Central Alternate Shot (middle topic).

Paspalum Dynasty: Players Acknowledge Sergio's "Not Normal" "Tantrum"

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Brian Keogh unearths additional details for The Independent and in a separate piece, offers a very PG-rated translation of Sergio Garcia’s rantings from the Royal Greens bunker.

There was an apology told to Spanish news agency EFE “shortly after his disqualification” reports Keogh.

“What happened this week is not something I am proud of,” Garcia told the Spanish news agency EFE shortly after his disqualification.

“We are all human, and we all make mistakes, but the important thing is to learn from them. The mistake is not learning from mistakes.”

So there is a chance you could make a mistake on top of the mistake you’ve already made if you don’t learn from this mistake. Got it.

Of more interest are the details filling in names of some players and caddies who turned Garcia in for vandalizing Royal Greens’ “Paspalum Dynasty” greens on top of names like Robert Rock and Patrick Reed who already acknowledged they saw the Spaniard’s efforts to deface the greens.

His antics in round three included leaving scuff marks and a divot on five greens as he played alongside the young Italian Renato Paratore, whose caddie felt Garcia’s tantrum was excessively prolonged.

According to EFE, Paratore’s Spanish caddie Javier Erviti said: “We are used to shows of character because we are Latinos, but we had the impression this tantrum was a bit over the top.”

Compatriot Jorge Campillo and his caddie Borja Simo, who were two groups behind Garcia and Paratore, called rules officials when they spotted deliberate damage to several greens.

“We knew it could affect us and the groups behind us,” Simo told EFE.

Campillo added: “It could happen once to any of us but several times is not normal.”

At the end of the round, tournament director David Phillips was waiting for Garcia, armed with an electronic tablet and showed him the photos.

So we have more confirmation that the European Tour has a file documenting the damage but it seems the chances are slim we’ll ever see them.

We discussed the situation on Morning Drive:


"Keith Pelley defended the Saudi event, saying it was 'transformational.' But then a bone saw and a vat of acid can be pretty transformational too."

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Nice line among many gems from Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch summing up the week “grow the game” was used to hide behind a deplorable all-around showing by the European Tour in going to Saudi Arabia, where no fans showed up, media was almost non-existent and players grabbed the Crown Prince’s dirty money.

This was nice too:

Conscientious objecting is a fraught business, of course. Is a golfer who can’t countenance competing in Saudi Arabia because of human rights abuses then obliged to skip the PGA Tour stop in China? How current or egregious or well-publicized must violations be to warrant a boycott? And what about events staged in countries that arm evil regimes? It’s a fine, blurred line between conscience and compromise.

Yet sometimes a decision is deceptively simple. Like when a golf tournament is manufactured purely as a public-relations fig leaf for an abhorrent government.  Last week’s Saudi International was just such a situation, no matter how much ‘Whataboutery’ was trafficked by slavish lickspittles in their attempt to justify enjoying Saudi hospitality.

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde offered this look at the player’s grabbing the Crown Prince’s money and:

Still, let’s play out with arguably my favourite take on it all, which emanated from the American Patrick Reed. Asked if he had any safety concerns about visiting Saudi Arabia, last year’s Masters champion dismissed the idea. “No,” breezed Reed, “because the European Tour has us covered.” On the one hand, yes. It feels vanishingly unlikely that anything unpleasant would happen to golfers paid to burnish Saudi Arabia’s dismal image. On the other, if the chips do go down, and you want a really crack unit to have your back covered, who you gonna call? The SAS, Delta Force, Seal Team Six, or … hang on, what was it again? … ah yes. The European Tour. Veteran of zero deadly missions, but several increasingly daring sorties into enemy coffers.

And Club Pro Guy with the Tweet of the week:

One other noteworthy item was this column from Morning Read’s Alex Miceli taking issue with Brandel Chamblee highlighting just some of the host’s more deplorable acts while Golf Channel did not treat this inaugural event as something of great importance (nor did any fans!).

He fell back on grow the game to justify his and the player’s appearance there.

At the same time, touring pros understand that golf’s future could be in jeopardy without trying to expand the game’s base and expose a country such as Saudi Arabia to world-class tournament golf.

Can we all at least agree that, based on a tournament with no fans and cash merely being grabbed, the game was not “grown”?

Keith Pelley's Awful Week Concludes With No Plans To Further Penalize Sergio Garcia

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As we begin a week of discussion about the Rules of Golf and professionals declare how they need to make their own rules, just consider what took place with Sergio Garcia in Saudi Arabia. At least in the European Tour’s case, I’m not sure they are the best judges of their players.

To review, Garcia is turned in by his peers for intentionally vandalizing greens at Royal Greens in the inaugural event where the tournament host likely ordered a journalist’s murder and dismemberment. There were no fans on site and few media, so the antics could only be noticed by his peers. The Scotsman’s Martin Dempster quoted a few of the witnesses who, amazingly, chalk the behavior up to a mistake even as they watched a player vandalize the playing surfaces.

Worse, the European Tour intends no further action:

However, according to the European Tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, the matter is now closed. “The incident is over,” he said, speaking at the event in King Abdullah Economic City. “We have dealt with it. Sergio has apologised to the players and we move on.”

While no video has surfaced of Garcia dragging his feet, Dempster posted this image shared with him of Garcia having taken a divot out of a green. Conduct unbecoming, needless to say.

The day prior, Garcia threw this hissy fit in a bunker:

As I noted here, Garcia needs a long suspension. He previously took a six month break from the game and it did wonders for his attitude. A longer break would serve him and the game well at this point.

That Keith Pelley is unwilling to recognize this in an obvious effort to protect a star is both sad and irresponsible. Ultimately the European Tour’s credibility hinges on a sense that a fair playing field is paramount, as is the upholding of basic etiquette in a sport where sponsors pay handsomely to be associated with the quality sportsmanship so consistently demonstrated by most professional golfers.

Sergio Garcia Probably Needs To Be Given The Year Off, For Starters

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I’ve quizzed longtime observers and no one can come up with anything in the history of professional golf comparable to Sergio Garcia’s disqualification under Rule 1.2a for purposely damaging the Royal Greens.

For a player who lowered the bar when he spit into a Doral cup during the 2007 CA WGC event, the notion of altering the playing field is an entirely different beast. Worse, in his statement he mentions damaging a “couple” of greens, but Martin Dempster, reporting on site for The Scotsman, says it was five greens.

Garcia’s statement:

The incident Saturday culminated a week of bad behavior from Garcia. Alistair Tait noted for Golfweek that “Garcia is alleged to have complained about the greens earlier in the week. The decision came a day after he slammed a club in a bunker in anger.”

James Corrigan also noted the weeklong antics.

Struggling at around level par, Garcia’s renowned rage got the better of him as he slammed his club into the putting surfaces on multiple occasions. Observers at the Royal Greens Country Club revealed that he was heard criticisng the greens earlier in the week and on Friday was seen taking out his dislike of the bunkers by smashing down his sand-wedge.

The American Patrick Reed was involved as he was in the group immediately behind Garcia that first drew the officials’ attention to the gouges on the greens. The three groups following Reed also complained to the referees and it was then that Tour chief executive, Keith Pelley, confronted Garcia.

Ewan Murray noted this about the incident for The Guardian:

Sky Sports curiously reserved little attention for this newsworthy situation at the conclusion of their live broadcast, with the 62 produced by China’s Li Haotong deemed worthy of far more coverage.

Pelley could have done without these antics by one of his tour’s most high-profile players. The European Tour’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia for the first time has been subject of widespread criticism on the basis of human rights infringements by the country.

Here is the meeting with Pelley after play:

The dreadful incident is a fitting black eye for a tournament that should not have been played. But beyond the optics, given the weeklong behavior, the career of etiquette breaches and the absurdity of damaging the host course, Garcia should be suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Consider the last penalty for a rule 1.2a violation from Corrigan’s account:

The last high-profile pro to be hit with a misconduct charge was Simon Dyson in 2013. The Yorkshireman was disqualified from the BMW Masters and was forced to pay a £30,000 fine and received a two-month suspended ban. Dyson's crime was to tap down a spike mark, an act that was then against the rules, but which is now allowed.

Dyson’s act was a selfish, split-second mistake that might have improved the playing surface for himself. Garcia intentionally damaged a host venue and left behind poor conditions for those playing after him. It’s an unprecedented breach that calls for an unprecedented penalty.

Reed Joins "Jack, Arnold and Tom" In Receiving European Tour Honorary Lifetime Membership, Vows Repeatedly To Grow The Game With It

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It’s customary for the European Tour to give Honorary Lifetime Memberships to players who win majors and like to turn up their events, even when they go to places where they conduct public beheadings.

Patrick Reed joins the club and can’t wait to grow the game. Good stuff here for those playing the GTG drinking game. From the European Tour release:

Reed said: “Words can’t really describe how proud I am right now. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a worldwide player and play on both Tours. Now, to be able to fulfil that on the European Tour, and to travel the world and grow the game means so much to me.

“For the European Tour to have faith in me and give me this opportunity means everything. I hope to show everyone and show the Tour how proud I am and represent the Tour really well in the game of golf.

“It’s such an honour to be named alongside Jack, Arnold and Tom. They are legends of the game of golf, not just because of what they’ve done on the golf course, but because what they’ve done off the golf course. They have helped grow the game and grow their communities. That’s something I’m trying to do, to follow in their footsteps and grow the game of golf. I want to do it worldwide like those guys. To be part of such a small group is unbelievable and it’s hard to even talk about.”

Pepperell On Saudi Arabia Event: World Ranking Points Take Priority

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We’ve seen players travel to far away lands in search of easy World Ranking points and sell their mother’s for year-end world top 50 status.

And now, look the other way on carved up journalists, beheadings, beatings, violent bigotry and 15 of 19 9-11 hijackers just to help the Crown Prince see the error of his nation’s murderous ways.

Eddie Pepperell is at this week’s European Tour event and clearly conflicted since he noted three other shady countries the European Tour might reconsider visiting. Ultimately, he can’t resist the points according to his latest blog post.

I can really only speak for myself, and plus, remember I’m not being paid to be here, so I’m only slightly less immoral than the top guys who have showed up. For me, if I didn’t play, I sacrifice the opportunity to play against the best in the world, I miss a chance to improve my world ranking also, which objectively speaking, does hold some importance for me, since if I fall out of the Top 50 before April then I won’t be eligible for a PGA Tour event I have scheduled to play. And that means losing flights etc and having to pay for new ones, which you might say is no problem because I’ve earned a lot of money lately, though resentment isn’t good for anybody.

At least Pepperell is honest about what drives him to tee it up in Saudi Arabia this week. If not, delusional…

On top of all of this, maybe, just maybe, the Regime out here really do want to change. Maybe they’ve recognised the perilous state of their own affairs and in particular their reliance on a fossil fuel that won’t be here forever. 

Maybe the Crown Prince will present a solar panel trophy instead of an oil derrick. Or not.

Human Rights Reminder To European Tour Golfers: Haotong Li Still Alive, But Jamal Khashoggi Is Not

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European Tour Chief Keith Pelley finds the treatment of Haotong Li “grossly unfair” as did many of the very players heading to Saudi Arabia this week, reports Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier.

In fact, Eddie Pepperell, horrified by Li’s treatment under the rules is even making jokes about teeing it up in Saudia Arabia:

For a man who likes to read, Pepperell may want to brush up on Saudi Arabia’s record before cracking jokes.

He’s not alone, as Ian Poulter is playing a low IQ card. He is not a stupid man.

From Iain Carter’s BBC Sport report:

Most players are interested in little else. "I'm probably not the most educated man in the world to sit down and have a discussion about politics," Ian Poulter told BBC Sport.

"I tend to err on the other side and try not to go too deep into that because my IQ is not great.

"Obviously, we all know what's going on around the world, but when I see the tour trying to make good and give us opportunities then I think it is a good thing."

He went on to cite the world rankin points in play. So maybe he’s not entirely wrong about the low IQ.

Sadly, not one of the parties taking the Crown Prince’s money this week has brought themselves to condemn the person putting up this week’s purse for the hideous demise of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Or countless other grotesque acts against humans.

The Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who Pelley credited with envisioning this tournament, is the likely green-lighter of this event. So to recap: journalist murdered and dismembered in October and the European Tour forges ahead even though most world intelligence agencies pin the hideous act on the tournament host.

But the R&A for not letting European Tour referees give Haotong Li and his caddie a hall pass?

Grossly unfair!

Here’s my first take for Golfweek on Pelley’s attempt to distract from this week’s disastrous money grab as well as a plea to not throw out the new golf Rules baby with the bathwater.

Randall Mell at GolfChannel.com takes on the players participating in this event and claiming they are not politicians.

Corporations are known for their often blind pursuit of the bottom line, but tour pros aren’t blind, though they may be going to Saudi Arabia with their eyes closed.

“It is not the Saudi Arabian people who ordered Khashoggi murdered,” Kenneth Roth, head of the Human Rights Watch, told France’s AFP during the World Economic Forum last week. “It is a particular government and a particular leader.

“I think the real question now is who gave the command.”

If the crown prince were to show up to present the trophy Sunday at the Saudi International, it probably wouldn’t be a good time to ask.

Rules War! Pelley Wants His Referees To Have Leeway On Rules, R&A Fires Back

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In an unprecedented rebuke of the governing bodies—not coincidentally the week his tour lands in lowly Saudi Arabia—European Tour Chief Keith Pelley has blasted the Haotong Li penalty as, of course, detrimental to growing the game.

I’m about to dig in on a column about all of the things this brouhaha is really about, but in the meantime here is Pelley’s statement followed the R&A’s response that arrived 92 minutes later in my Inbox.


‘There has been much discussion and comment over the past 24 hours on the two-shot penalty given to Li Haotong for his breach of Rule 10.2b (4) on the 18th green of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

‘Let me state initially that, under the new Rules of Golf issued on January 1, 2019, the decision made by our referees was correct, under the strict wording of the rules. It is my strong belief, however, that the fact there is no discretion available to our referees when implementing rulings such as this is wrong and should be addressed immediately. 

‘Everyone I have spoken to about this believes, as I do, that there was no malice or intent from Li Haotong, nor did he gain any advantage from his, or his caddie’s split-second actions. Therefore the subsequent two shot penalty, which moved him from T3 in the tournament to T12, was grossly unfair in my opinion. 

‘In an era where we are striving to improve all aspects of golf, we need to be careful and find the proper balance between maintaining the integrity of the game and promoting its global appeal. 

‘I have spoken personally to R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers to voice my opposition to the fact there is no discretion available to our referees in relation to this ruling, and I will be making additional representation to the R&A in the near future to discuss the matter further.’

I am sticking up for my players and making a lot of noise from my luxury hotel where the Crown Prince himself left me a welcome note!


Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have reviewed the Li Haotong ruling made by the European Tour referees and agree that it was correct. There has been some misunderstanding of the new Rule and I would point out that it is designed to prevent any opportunity for the caddie to stand behind the player as he begins to take his stance. Whether the player intends to be lined up is not the issue. We appreciate that it was a very unfortunate situation yesterday and I completely understand Keith Pelley's concerns when a Rules incident occurs at such a key stage of a European Tour event but there is no discretionary element to the Rule precisely so that it is easier to understand and can be applied consistently.

“We are continuing to monitor the impact of the new Rules but I made it clear to Keith that our focus is very much on maintaining the integrity of the Rules for all golfers worldwide.”

Here is our chat on Morning Drive today about this.

Pelley Says European Tour Has Done Its Security Due Diligence In Defending "Middle East strategy"

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European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley is attempting to get out front of the looming disaster that is a professional golf tournament in Saudi Arabia only months after the dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last fall. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was credited with bringing the European Tour event to his country, likely ordered the killing at his country’s Turkish consulate.

Pelley focused more on player security in spinning the decision to forge ahead with an event despite the murder. From G.C. Digital’s story:

“Our main focus is on the safety and security of our players and staff,” Pelley said Sunday on “Morning Drive”. “Like many global companies who operate in the region, we monitored the situation. … Having looked at that – and having done our due diligence in terms of the safety and security – we’re obviously moving forward and looking forward to this new chapter on the European Tour.”

Pelley’s full Morning Drive appearance starts with some fantastic stalling efforts before the dreaded topic comes up: