Rulings Roundup, Open Championship Edition

There is an unbylined piece posted by the R&A analyzing the 339 rules incidents handled by the "international team of referees" at the 2012 Open Championship, with a numerical breakdown of the Rules situations that arose.

I'm not sure why I found this surprising considering the severity of the rough, but it did sound like a lot of unplayables:

One of the most commonly used Rules in golf is the unplayable ball Rule (Rule 28).  In total, 32 unplayable ball rulings were dealt with at the Championship, including Phil Mickelson’s drop after he found the deep rough above a bunker on the 8th hole. Click here to read more.

The weather, of course, can have a big impact on the Rules and 2012 was no exception.  Due to the unusually wet weather that Britain has experienced this summer and, in particular, following a heavy rainfall on the Thursday night of the Championship, no less than 58 casual water rulings were overseen by referees.  Of these, 37 related to casual water in a bunker where Rule 25-1b(ii) was applied. Click here to read more.

Monty Blasts Tiger's Austerity Approach

Jim Black reports on Colin Montgomerie's critical account of Tiger's play at Lytham in the wake of Andy Murray's aggressive play in the Olympic tennis.

As usual, Monty almost got it right.

"The Olympic title isn't a grand slam event but, at the same time, for Murray to go back to the court where he lost to Federer a month before and produce such an amazing win took a lot of doing. He tried to attack in their previous match, but Federer forced him on to the defence, while Woods always looked like he was playing for a place in the Open and third is what he got. You've got to bring out the driver and attack at some point, not constantly hit 3-irons and end up two-putting from 40 feet. Using your driver is part of the game, surely.

"I don't think Tiger is confident using his driver, having watched him spend two and a half minutes deciding which club to hit on the 11th tee at Lytham and, when he did make up his mind, he almost lost his ball.

"Murray showed that the way to win is by being aggressive and attacking. He beat the two best players in the world, Federer and Djokovic, to prove that he is as good as anyone in the game."

Now I know you've all committed my Golf World story about Tiger's week at Lytham to memory, but in case you didn't read it yet, I focused on the moment at the 11th tee because I was sitting there listening to the conversation between Tiger and LaCava thanks to intimate spectator roping.

It was a key moment and he did eventually hit driver. Instead of hitting a slight draw, which was necessary to offset the left-to-right wind, Tiger did hit the slight cut he'd been hitting and the wind took it about 30 yards right of the fairway in a mashed down rough area. So Monty got part of it right. 

That said, we will find out this week if it was a confidence situation or simply his strategic approach to Lytham, which, as I wrote in the story, kept him in contention but when the time came to shake the reins and make a move at 13 and 14, he stuck to the plan. At 7,767 yards and soft, Tiger won't have a choice this week.

Els On Going It Alone, Giving Up Drinking

Good read from Doug Ferguson on Ernie Els after winning the Open and some of the sacrifices/changes he made leading up to the victory that might have made a difference, starting with going solo during Open week.

His family stayed in Skibo Castle during the Scottish Open, and then Els sent them home. He knew deep down he was getting close, especially after his tie for ninth in the U.S. Open. He wanted to treat the British Open like a work week, as it was when he was just starting his career. He went to the golf course and worked. He went to the hotel to sleep. It was all business.

''Tony Jacklin stayed in that hotel when he won in 1969 - I was born in 1969,'' Els said, grinning at the coincidence.

And this about giving up drinking.

One night at dinner about a month before the Open, he decided to stop drinking. Els doesn't remember the night, and when pressed for the motive behind it, he waved his hand and said, ''Accch,'' a guttural sound in Afrikaans to suggest it was no big deal or not worth discussing.

''I just didn't feel like anymore,'' he said. ''I'm probably going to give it another three months now. I feel really into what I'm doing.''

Leaving London 2012

After a quick vacation I took in the festivities in London 2012 and had a fantastic time. Despite the various boondoggles and controversies--of which there are many currently festering--the city is functioning well and the one event I was able to get into--beach volleyball--was absolutely fantastic, with an energetic crowd, stunning (temporary) venue and close matches.

Before boarding, a few quick thoughts:

- Golf is going to have to step it up to compete with the other sports for attention. Sadly, the current 72-hole stroke play format ensures it will get little attention and after watching the sensitive dynamics between teammates in beach volleyball and in other sports, we are completely blowing the Olympic opportunity by not showing the world that there is no more fascinating, intelligent, emotional, dramatic and beautifully awkward sport than golf when played with a teammate under Olympic pressure. So Tiger, since you helped influence this format, could you help influence its undoing now? Please?

- The empty seat fiasco, laid out beautifully by James Lawton in the Independent today, is as bad as you'd suspect. Tickets were difficult to get and for everyone here who tried and failed, or for visitors like me, it's insulting to see so many empty seats when you'd be willing to hand over good money to see an event. I'm less annoyed by the extensive dignitary seats going unfilled than I am by the large blocks in normal seating that went unsold. Most galling was turning on the BBC to see Caroline Wozniacki play at Wimbledon on a beautiful Saturday evening against a Great British athlete in front of maybe 1/3 the capacity of centre court, a session I tried to buy tickets for multiple times. Imagine how the residents who struck out must have felt.

-I will miss the papers terribly. The Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Independent and the tabloids are pulling out all the stops and while the coverage online is super and a must for your Olympic reading enjoyment, there is nothing like starting the day with a beautifully designed newspaper full of great writing and photography.

-The BBC here is remarkable. The coverage is extensive, easy to find and lacking many of the pomp that Americans seem to love and sports fans get annoyed with. But the jingoistic homerism really undoes their credibility, with the low point coming Sunday night by showing announcer reaction to a third place performance in women's swimming. NBC may be pro-American, but I don't think we'll ever see a replay of Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines rooting on someone to win a medal!

Cheers!

One Last Lytham Note: Narrowing

In Wednesday's R&A Presented By Polo press conference, Peter Dawson disagreed with a suggestion that Lytham had been narrowed since the last time they were there, which was then heightened by this year's denser-than-normal rough along with additional bunkers. He denied the course was narrower. "Not factual" I believe would be the precise wording.

The Art Department did a little research and found that aerials could prove otherwise. Since we don't want to belabor the point, here is just one example of the effort to take driver out of the hands of players.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

 

Lytham Head Pro: "They threw the ball up in the air and that's just not how to play a seaside green."

Tom Pilcher talks to longtime Royal Lytham professional Eddie Birchenough and he was not impressed with the way the world's best played his links.

"The overall thing that surprised me was around the greens, the short shots, they threw the ball up in the air and that's just not how to play a seaside green," he said, shaking his head gently.

"You need to get the ball on the ground and I thought several of them were guilty of not doing that."

A Closer Look At Tiger's 2012 Open Championship Week

I had the task of tracking Tiger for Golf World and I was fascinated by his conservative approach, something detailed in my story. Reading it again after filing Monday morning I probably reported a little too much blow-by-blow of his final round, but he still had a chance to win after his unlucky triple bogey.

However, the inability to fight the wind with a draw at 11 and the stubbornness to play safe at 13 and 14 when he need to shake the reins and press the pedal, took him out of the tournament as much the triple did.

Anyway...here it is.

“Bobby Jones used concave-faced clubs for some of his major championships. They were outlawed later."

Martin Dempster had a super write-up of the Monday R&A press conference and included this from Peter Dawson, which would be an answer to my first Open question.


Dawson was adamant that the controversy surrounding long putters hadn’t detracted from Els winning a dramatic event – he came from six shots back with nine holes to play as Scott dropped shots at each of the last four holes – to claim the Claret Jug for a second time.

“No, absolutely not,” he said. “The championship is conducted under the rules of play at the time, and it doesn’t detract in any way from the winner as long as he obeys the rules of play at the time.

“Bobby Jones used concave-faced clubs for some of his major championships. They were outlawed later. Bobby Jones’ victories are in no way demeaned as a result of that and I see this in exactly the same way.”

At Lytham, in a field of 156, Els was among 16 players wielding a belly putter while Scott was one of 27 using a long one.

“At one tournament last year, the R&A reported 21 per cent of players had long putters in their bag.”

Bookmaker Feeling So Guilty About Open Winnings It Is Refunding Adam Win Bets

See, out of the tragedy of Adam Scott's crushing loss comes a story of hope and punters dreams come true.

For Immediate Release...dateline Costa Rica!

Adam Scott’s Meltdown No Big Loss for Bettors: Sportsbook Refunds Those Who Picked Aussie to Win British Open

Major upset after blowing a lead won’t affect sports bettors who bet on Adam Scott to win at online sportsbook

San Jose, Costa Rica– July 23, 2012 – For Australian pro golfer Adam Scott, losing the Open Championship after leading by four strokes with just four holes to play will forever sting. But for those who put their money on him at this online sportsbook, the financial loss won’t be as painful.

SportsBettingOnline today announced that management is refunding all players who lost money betting on Adam Scott.

"With so many of the favorites including Woods not cashing, it was a good day for sportsbooks. But that wasn’t the case for those who dropped money on Scott,” stated Dave Johnson, head oddsmaker for SportsBettingOnline.ag.  “We feel it’s our duty to refund the players for taking such a bad beat. His collapse was historic and we know the bettors who had him must feel as awful as he does.”

Adam Scott virtually imploded on the green, bogeying the last four holes. He ultimately lost by one shot to Ernie Els. Odds on Scott taking the Open were listed at 45/1 at the sportsbook. That means every $100 bet would have paid $4500 had the Australian taken the title.

This is the second time in just over two months that this company has refunded sports bettors. Last month, the online sportsbook refunded everyone who lost money on the Pacquaio-Bradley boxing match after the controversial results handed Bradley the win.

Paying members cash for losing bets is fairly commonplace at SportsBettingOnline.ag. Members receive 10% cash back, every week, win or lose.

Alliss: "The R&A should not be risking their reputation over a bag of chips."

From a Daily Mirror item not posted online but told to me by my taxi driver today:

Peter Alliss has rebuked the R&A over the cost of food and drink on course--branding £7.80 for fish and chips "disgraceful." The BBC expert said: "The R&A should not be risking their reputation over a bag of chips."

For BBC viewers or even ESPN watchers, The Guardian's Martin Kelner reviews the weekend telecast and focuses on Alliss. 

I love his low growl, and his unselfconscious use of expressions like "cor lummy, chum" to punctuate a missed putt, the kind of expletive found in pre-war children's books, invariably followed by the words "he ejaculated" and a sketch of some chap with his monocle falling out. But I love Alliss most of all because he is not Dan Walker.

Dawson Clarifies Where Anchoring Discussions Stand

Doug Ferguson reports on Peter Dawson, R&A Chief Executive, speaking at today's post-Open press conference.

Dawson's comments in their entirety:

The situation is that the R&A and the USGA are ‑‑ do have this subject firmly back on the radar.  We appreciate that there is much speculation about this and that we need to clarify the position as soon as possible.  And I think you're going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months rather than years.

There are still further meetings to be had, so we're just going to have to be patient I'm afraid and wait and see the outcome.  But as you know, it is under active discussion.

Q.  Could you share at least who's involved in these meetings?

PETER DAWSON:  Well, the initial determination has been that we are examining the subject from a method of stroke standpoint rather than length of putter standpoint, and that takes it into the area of the rules of play, the rules of golf, rather than the rules of equipment.  And therefore it's the rules of golf committees of the R&A and the USGA who are looking at this in detail, and then they have to make their recommendations to the boards of each organisation.

And later on...

Q.  Some would say if Adam Scott won, it would have been the lesser of the two evils, using that broom handle putter.  Is it fair to say it is anchoring more than anything, and if action is going to be taken it would be more against belly than broom handle?

PETER DAWSON:  No, anchoring is what we're looking at, method of stroke, and it's all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that fixed pivot point is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest.  I don't distinguish between the two.  It's a matter of stroke issue.

Golf World Monday On Lytham

My Golf World Monday item reviewing the week at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

No matter how you felt about the course (very good) or the setup (dismal), there is no question the greenkeeping staff worked miracles to make the course as playable and good as it was considering the lovely England summer.

Just a note about the setup. This is a wonderful course which needs more width to be interesting. Moving a few tees around to compensate for the lack of wind would have helped too, and maybe not tucking every hole location or sticking them on strange spots would have been nice too. I just hope they start widening it out and turning some sheep loose on the roughs, because I can't imagine an average golfer 10 handicapper breaking 100 at Lytham as it was setup this year.

"Els barrelled through the field like a freight train"

Oliver Brown on Ernie Els' stunning comeback both Sunday and from career struggles to win the 2012 Open Championship at Lytham and St. Annes, with a nice recap of everything Els has done to stay relevant.

Els barrelled through the field like a freight train, scattering his rivals by virtue of his brilliance under pressure and of his own superior aesthetics. Could it really have been a decade since he last hoisted the Claret Jug at Troon? It rarely seemed like it as the 42 year-old carved out a serene path to victory, exhibiting the type of sedated state associated more with the seaside donkeys that ply this section of Blackpool coast.

But no one expected this. Not even his most fervent disciples could have dared argue that he had still had it within him to win an Open from five shots back on Sunday, but perhaps they should have consulted the man himself. Els had forecast before this tournament began that “something special” could happen, and he elicited nothing more than gentle amusement among commentators.

His post round interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi: