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Will there be a local flagstick rule at the Masters? Bamberger’s 7 best things in golf right now



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Every week GOLF senior writer Michael Bamberger identifies — and ranks — the absolute, undeniably, very best things in golf right now. This week’s he talks about rumors involving a local flagstick rule at the Masters, Matt Kuchar and “Tucangate”, a morning spent with Greg Norman and much more.

7. Best visit with a Hall of Famer

I spent a morning with Greg Norman the other day and for some reason we started talking about grandfathers. He told me about his father’s father, an Australian carpenter, a tough man who lived in the country, in Ayr, a sugar-cane town. “He had this beautiful mango tree and it had like 50,000 mangoes on it. My sister and I would go running to it but we weren’t allowed to eat the mangoes.” It was striking to hear because now, of course, the child gets what the child wants. The first of Norman’s two British Open wins came in 1986, at Turnberry, on Scotland’s west coast, in South Ayrshire.

6. Best possible outcome in Watchgate

Lucy Li is a charming, talented and intelligent 16-year-old amateur golfer who put her amateur status in jeopardy by appearing in an appealing 15-second ad for Apple watches that makes the watch, Lucy and the game she plays looks cool. It was a clear violation of the USGA’s amateur-status rules. But now comes the hard part, for the USGA to convince the Li family to acknowledge it was a mistake to do the spot and have Lucy apply to regain her amateur status. Anything other than that challenges the USGA at a time when its authority is already under challenge, and that is not serving the game well.

If the Li family has the Apple marketing department whispering in its other ear, it won’t be a fair fight. At the Curtis Cup in June, Lucy gave me a brief tour of her Apple watch, how it could tell wind direction and speed and provide other information that made it illegal to wear while playing in a USGA competition. But she wore it while practicing, with pride.

5. Best possible outcome to Tucangate

Matt Kuchar does not enjoy a reputation on Tour for being generous when it comes to paying caddies. But he is affable, respectful, playful with them, and that counts for something, too. He is not what the caddies call “a caddie-hater.” What he paid his fill-in Mexican caddie, David Giral Ortiz, aka El Tucan, after winning in Mexico last year is Kuchar’s business, and Ortiz’s. Kuchar won $1.3 million at Mayakoba. He told reporters that he paid his caddie more than $3,000 and less than $100,000.

Ortiz was not a kid skipping high school. He’s a 40-year-old married man with children who takes a bus to the golf course and who worked a loop on the Monday after his win with Kuchar. It’s easy to spend other people’s money, but my suggestion to Kuchar is to send another check. In the long run, it will come back to you.

Matt Kuchar with his caddie that week, David Giral “El Tucan” Ortiz , at the 2018 Mayakoba Golf Classic.

4. Best press-conference abuse of obviously

The leader in the clubhouse is Dustin Johnson, talking to reporters in a roughly 10-minute pre-game session in Abu Dhabi this week. He opened by noting, “Obviously I’ve been here the last three years,” then went for the adverb nine more times before he was done.

3. The best pro-am event this week

The LPGA event in Orlando, by far. The old Bob Hope/George Lopez/Bill Clinton Palm Springs pro-am event is now the Desert Classic, and the sparkle is gone. The LPGA’s Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions features LPGA stars: Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Nelly Korda, Cristie Kerr, Ariya Jutanugarn. And amateurs you’ve heard of: Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien. Jack Wagner and Toby Keith. Plus, as he is listed on the tee sheet, Larry the Cable Guy, paired with Brittany Lincicome.

2. Best fantasy rules discussion

Somewhere in the deep state golfheads have been talking recently about the prospect of the Augusta National overlords requiring the flagstick to still come out while putting during the Masters. Two quick thoughts. It could happen. Any tournament organizer or sponsor has the prerogative to create a local rule for its event. But it would never happen. Augusta National would never do anything to challenge the authority of the USGA. It would be violating the spirit of its co-founder, Bobby Jones, the organization’s most revered figure. That’s why there will never be an Augusta-issued golf ball at the Masters, even though it would be great for the game if there was one.

1. Best new address in golf

For years, the USGA address was listed as 77 Liberty Corner Road, Far Hills, New Jersey. And it was kind of odd, because the USGA is not in Far Hills. It’s in Liberty Corner. The new official address is 77 Liberty Corner Road, Liberty Corner, New Jersey. Liberty Corner sounds golfy. Almost as golfy as South Ayrshire.

Michael Bamberger may be reached at [email protected]

Will there be a local flagstick rule at the Masters? Bamberger's 7 best things in golf right now was originally posted at by Michael Bamberger

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PHOTOS: What's in the bag at the Genesis Open



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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — If the Genesis Open was a movie, it’d be a blockbuster filled with A-list talent. Tiger Woods leads a loaded field that includes, among others, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson. With most of the big names in professional golf at Riviera Country Club, equipment editor Jonathan Wall is on site providing a running equipment gallery of what players are using, as well as any new gear that surfaces on Tour this week.

Keep checking this story over the next few days as additional photos are added.


PHOTOS: What's in the bag at the Genesis Open was originally posted at by Jonathan Wall

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Golf’s New Rules: Few Players Know Them, Fewer Understand Them – The New York Times




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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am never fails to rattle Darius Rucker’s nerves. This year though, Rucker, the three-time Grammy Award winning musician, had more to fret about than hitting a spectator or getting in the way of his pro partner, Kenny Perry.

“Now you’re scared that somebody’s going to come call a rules violation on you with something that you don’t know about anything,” Rucker said before the tournament began last week.

The pros are just as worried. The United States Golf Association and the R&A revised the sport’s rule book to simplify the game and speed up the pace of play. But so far the changes, which took effect at the start of 2019, have been harder to follow than a game of Simon Says.

In the few weeks since the modifications took effect, players have repeatedly sought guidance from the nearest rules official, their caddies or pieces of paper tucked inside their golf bags, undermining for now, at least, the stated intention of making things simpler and faster.

And it’s adding an extra bit of hesitancy to the pros’ trip through the course. During a rain-sodden second round at Pebble Beach on Friday, Hunter Mahan was forced to consult a tournament-issued rules sheet before touching his ball. “We thought we knew what the rule was,” Mahan said, “but there’s no clarity, so having an official or actually having it written down is the only true clarification.”

One of the new rules lowered the height from which players make a drop: it is now from the knees, rather than the shoulders, a change that the former men’s world No. 1 Adam Scott described as awkward. Whenever he bends over or squats with the ball, he can’t help but imagine rules officials assigned to monitor potential rules violations squinting at their screens, scrutinizing his release down to the inch.

“They’ve just written more gray areas into the game that were not necessary,” said Scott, who won’t make a drop without asking his caddie or a nearby official if he has the height right.

Even those enforcing the rules have been confused about how to interpret them. During the second round of the Phoenix Open earlier this month, Denny McCarthy was assessed a two-stroke penalty under Rule 10.2b(4), a new regulation that prohibits caddies from standing behind players as they line up for their shots.

ImageA rules official closely observed as Bryson DeChambeau lined up a putt during the Sony Open in Hawaii last week.CreditKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While McCarthy took a few practice swings, his caddie stood behind him. McCarthy stepped away before hitting the shot, and when he came back to the ball and set his stance, his caddie was standing off to the side. The next day, the PGA Tour announced that it had rescinded the penalty after reviewing McCarthy’s actions, and his score of 67 became a 65.

Somewhat lost in the turbulence created by the alignment rule in the men’s game is the fact that the change was seen as directed at the L.P.G.A., where caddies lining up players had been more common. Brittany Lincicome, an eight-time L.P.G.A. tour winner and two-time major champion, said she was glad “it wasn’t one of us” who became the rule’s first victim.

After the caddie-alignment episode with McCarthy, and several similar situations involving other players, the U.S.G.A. and the R&A issued a clarification: If players reset their stances after their caddies have surveyed a shot, there is no penalty.

“Going in, we knew there were certain things that were going to come up that you’d say, ‘We’re not sure we contemplated this or the intention was never to have this outcome,’” Mike Davis, the chief executive of the U.S.G.A. told the Global Golf Post. He added, “All in all, in terms of how they’re being perceive around the globe, it’s very positive.”

That wasn’t the case for Rickie Fowler, who took dead aim at the caddie-alignment rule during the Phoenix Open. “You’re talking about growing the game and making things play faster and whatnot,” he said, “but that’s not growing the game.”

Adding to Fowler’s exasperation was a run-in with one of the rule book’s unchanged regulations on the Sunday of the tournament. He took a two-stroke penalty for hitting a shot into the water, then absorbed another one-stroke penalty after his ball rolled back into the hazard several seconds after he walked toward the green to survey his chip.

After carding a triple bogey, Fowler, in a show of gallows humor, petitioned the rules official, Slugger White, for a rules modification.

Fowler hung on to win, but Tony Finau, who watched the round unfold on television after missing the cut, saw the gravity in Fowler’s joking.

“As I watched that transpire, I couldn’t help but think, ‘This is not what the integrity of the game is about,’” Finau said. “He didn’t do anything for that ball to move.”

One player’s mishap is another’s teachable moment. An L.P.G.A. rules official disseminated the video of Fowler playing the hole, noting that he could have avoided the second penalty by making his first two drops, then using a tee to mark the spot where he intended to place the ball. After surveying his shot, he could have then replaced the tee with his ball before taking his shot.


Rickie Fowler criticized the updated caddie-alignment rule during the Phoenix Open last month, saying it wouldn’t help with “growing the game.”CreditMichael Reaves/Getty Images

Breaking up the sequence of drop-drop-place like that was illuminating to Lincicome: “I didn’t even know that was a thing,” she said.

Another new wrinkle on the course this year is using the flagstick as a backboard on putts; to speed up play, golfers can leave the pin in no matter where they are on the course, including the green. Anticipating the outcome, Bryson DeChambeau said last year, “The U.S.G.A.’s going to have to go back on that one, like, ‘No! We made the hole bigger!’”

It sure has seemed that way to Scott, who ranked 165th on tour in 2018 in strokes-gained putting. Putting with the flagstick in the hole, he is ranked No. 26. “To be honest,” Scott said, “it almost changes the whole aim of the game. It’s to hit the pin, not hole the putt.”

He added, “It takes speed out of your head so much. It even takes some reading of the green out.”

DeChambeau has a point. The game’s governing bodies might be eager to simplify the rules, but their intent was never to make the game easier.

And, in the end, have they really simplified anything?

When Scott looks at the remaining layers of rules as well as the lingering and newfound confusion, he, like Fowler, wonders how it is growing the game. Imagine picking up an unfamiliar board game, he said, and opening the box to find 84 pages of rules. Would you bother playing it?

Now picture the same game, with only five or six rules to learn to start out. Which version would you find more appealing?

“Let’s have all the rules on the back of the scorecard for people to get into the game of golf,” Scott said, adding, “And then as you get playing more you can maybe learn some finer points of this very complex game.”

Though Jay Monahan, the P.G.A. commissioner, said last week that he felt proud of how quickly and nimbly the alignment rule confusion was addressed, Scott disagreed.

“We haven’t had a lot of changes in golf in the history of the game , and we’ve had a lot recently — rules changing weekly in some cases — and it’s crazy,” Scott said.

He added, “I think we’re becoming the laughingstock.”

Golf’s New Rules: Few Players Know Them, Fewer Understand Them - The New York Times was originally posted at by

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Kuchar's Caddie Controversy




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February 12, 2019


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