Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Patrick Reed won the Farmers Insurance Open by five strokes on Sunday but the bigger story from the tournament was a controversy that erupted during third round play on Saturday when Reed took relief from an apparent embedded ball on the 10th hole. Reed asked his playing partners and a bystander if the ball had bounced. Nobody acknowledged seeing a bounce, so Reed concluded his ball was embedded and took relief under Rule 16.3 Embedded Ball. His actions were upheld by a Rules Official, but a CBS video replay later showed that the ball had bounced and could not have been embedded. Nick Faldo was particularly harsh about Reed’s actions. Even Jim Nance, who hasn’t said a critical word since fifth grade, said the optics of the situation weren’t great. Nonetheless, the PGA Tour said Reed acted appropriately and no further action was warranted. Was this handled correctly?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): That’s a really tough question. If it wasn’t Patrick Reed, I don’t think this would be an issue because the Tour officials said it was all above board, rightly or wrongly; and rightly or wrongly, they have the final say. But because it was Reed, who has a continual and proven record of cheating, his word simply can’t be taken as valid. And picking up the ball before the official arrived was clearly the WRONG thing to do, even I know that! Why would he do that, unless to pull the wool over the official’s eyes? But here’s another question. If the CBS cameraman, and the crew in the CBS truck, saw the bounce, why didn’t they report it to the official as he was dealing with Reed at the time? It’s all very fishy, and like everything involving Patrick Reed, it stinks like fish.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): This was not handled well by anyone, but especially Reed. I don’t think anybody’s first reaction professional or not is to pick up the ball then call an official over. It’s ALWAYS the other way around, call an official when in doubt. It won’t be his last brush with the Rules. And he’ll be under more scrutiny than anyone else on Tour but rightfully so. Look for more entertainment to come from him before the year is out, you know it’s coming.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Recently, I signed up for a Rules course by the GAO. Why would an old guy like me do that? I have no intention to become a Rules Official and I have no intention to write the accompanying exam. I’m doing it because the number of changes in the past few years has been incredible and I want to keep current. Patrick Reed should take a similar course. He appears to me to have a vague understanding of the rules, but he doesn’t fully grasp what options he has. One of these includes ‘calling in’ an Official. The TOUR says Reed did everything according to the Rule Book and that should be the end of the story. Normally, it would be, but Patrick has a bit of ‘history’. In this case, he should not have lifted the ball even though he marked it as he was allowed to under the rules. Before touching the ball, he should have had the Official on-site. Deane Beman would fix this mess in one minute. He would instruct Reed to appear before him (Beman) and tell him “Don’t under any circumstances ever touch the ball without the supervision of a Rules Official” and second, ‘become a student of the Rules’. The optics might be bad in this case but going forward the public must perceive that Reed acts correctly at all times, as should every player. If having an Official supervise Reed makes for bad optics for Reed at least he can say he played by the Rules and so does the TOUR.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Wow, where to start. First off, I don’t blame the rules official because based on the information he had at the time, it seems like he made the right call. The bigger question is whether or not Reed manipulated the situation, and I think that’s the grey area. It’s hard to imagine that ball embedding after it bounced, and given his reputation, it’s hard to imagine he didn’t cheat. Was it handled correctly? I think from the Tour’s standpoint it was, based on the information they had. From Reed’s standpoint, not at all. I’ve had embedded ball situations in tournaments before and never have I touched a ball unless one of my competitors had looked at it and was beside me when I grabbed the ball to check. Another black mark on Reed’s reputation, but hey, the Tour needs a villain right?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Reed has played the game almost his entire life, and now it’s all he does, and he still bends rather than follows the rules. And stories of cheating and actual incidents have been part of his game all along the way. The Tour blew this, naturally. They had their rules rep yakking with Nance. What, he didn’t have a monitor? He didn’t see the ball bounce on the replay? He had no way to communicate with his fellow rules officials? Absurd. Of course Reed picked up the ball right away — would be hard to find another player at any high level who would do the same. Finger in the pitch mark at the bottom of four inches of grass? Come on. This says it all: The Tour’s partner in crime, I mean betting (stupid spell check) PointsBet issued Patrick Reed’s Relief Good Karma Payout — giving full credit for any wager on anyone other than Reed. That’s the only honourable thing to come out of this latest Reed episode.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Ironically, we dealt with a video replay question last week, but in this case, as Mr. Deeks says, why didn’t someone from CBS advise the Tour officials that they had evidence to the contrary, which could have been reviewed before serial cheater Reed signed his card. What may be even worse is this “circling the wagons” effort by the Tour to protect the players and the brand. And maybe most of all, not to give bettors any idea that there’s anything untoward going on. Golf is a sport and missed calls and cheats will pop up from time to time. They can’t be ignored or sanitized for the sake of the gamblers. “Bad form, Mr. Smee!”
Speaking of CBS, Sellers Shy, a long-time producer of the network’s golf coverage, takes the reins from Lance Barrow as only the third Co-ordinating Producer in over 60 years of golf broadcasting. Shy has promised there will be changes and a few shakeups on the Show and that things will look different for viewers in 2021. What’s the change (or changes) you’d most like to see?
Deeks: I’ll be in a minority on this, but I’d like to see Jim Nantz put out to pasture… or to football, at least… permanently. Nick Faldo has grown on me over the years, but if you’re going to toast Nantz, toast Faldo as well, and get some younger guys on the crew. (I’d keep Dottie Pepper, though.) Honestly, has anything changed at CBS since Ken Venturi passed away? I think it’s time for a big re-fresh.
Loughry: Better leaderboard display and FULL coverage of players not just the two or three leader(s). There’s more of a story out there than that. Less commercials. Hit the audience with relevant statistics before a shot is shown. What’s the Tour average percentage for hitting this par 5 in two: last year, today, by this player, etc. And stop showing so many useless putts. More on course (during play) interviews with players and caddies, throw the odd volunteer in there, trust me there are good stories out there CBS. Give me better camera angles. The blimp was innovative at one time, but drone’s offer more perspective and amazing angles these days, BRING IT. And bury some camera’s in the face of some bunkers, or on the flagstick, on the player and/or caddie. THIS CAN BE DONE. And yes, I should produce the show.
Schurman: If Sellers Shy was in a position to be promoted into the top job, he was obviously in a position of influence prior to the promotion. Why is he making changes now? The only reason would be a micro-managing, dictatorial boss. Most often when a large corporation makes major changes, they care very little about improving the product. It has more to do with $$$$$$. BTW I read where they have already cancelled Feherty and I suspect with Faldo’s contract and Nance’s, they will be close behind.
Rule: More golf!!! Take a page from the Euro Tour coverage and show more golf shots. It’s always been my biggest complaint about the US networks’ coverage, they focus too much on one or two players, and don’t show enough action. How many times has the winner come from behind on Sunday and because they weren’t in the last two groups or named Tiger Woods, we only see a half dozen of their shots. I understand having to interview the sponsor, they spend a lot of money, but beyond that, show more golf!
Quinn: It won’t happen, but maybe even for one Sunday afternoon, the yattering nabobs in the booths would be wearing shock collars and get zapped each and every time they interrupted or spoke over a colleague (sic). That would be wonderful.
Mumford: Too much of sports programming has turned the TV crew into the show, rather than play on the field, court, ice or golf course. I liked the old style where the less said the better. Naturally, we want updates and scores, but this constant obsession with filling every nano-second with sound bites, analysis and worthless drivel should be terminated. That may mean certain analysts have to go, but so be it. The worst invention ever in a golf broadcast is the so-called “playing through” commercial. It’s distracting, conflicting and annoying. Eliminating that would be huge. We saw some drone work in one of the made-for-TV matches and it was excellent, offering different angles and new perspectives. Definitely more of that please.
In honour of Groundhog Day, what’s your all-time favourite golf event that you could watch over and over again?
Deeks: Three for me: Mike Weir’s 2003 Masters victory… Jack’s 1986 Masters victory… and (because he’s the nicest guy I’ve ever known) Nick Price’s 1994 Open victory at Turnberry.
Loughry: MASTERS. Nicklaus 1986 or Tiger 2019.
Schurman: I could and have watched the Shell Match between Hogan and Snead over and over. I have that match on PVR as well as over 35 others. Even though I know the outcomes and the entire rounds, I still enjoy them. I also like the re-runs of the past Masters tournaments.
Rule: The first thing that came to mind when I read the question was the 2003 Masters for obvious reasons. But thinking about it more, it wasn’t the most exciting tournament, and ended a bit anti-climactically with Weir only needing bogey on the 10th hole to win the playoff. But it was the most nervous I’ve ever been watching a golf tournament. Beyond that tourney, I would have to say either Tiger’s 2019 Masters win or the European comeback in the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012.
Quinn: On any given Saturday — even the odd one here on the Coast when it’s not raining — I could sit back and enjoy again every minute of the 1977 Nicklaus and Watson Duel in the Sun at Turnberry — long before it was bastardized with the Trump prefix. Tension, drama, consummate skill –and sportsmanship — have never been showcased more brilliantly. Hit the replay button.
Mumford: The Masters is like Groundhog Day, so almost any year would do, except 2007. But the most exciting golf broadcasts are match play events, especially Ryder Cups. 2012 is particularly good, where Ian Poulter won all four matches he played and sunk every putt he looked at with that steely glare; Justin Rose battled fiercely with Phil Mickelson in Sunday singles; and Martin Kaymer clinched the Cup for Europe on Medinah’s 18th green, overcoming a 4 ½ point deficit at the start of the day. In terms of a single episode, I could watch the finish to the 2019 Solheim Cup over and over too, as Suzann Pettersen, after being away from golf for 20 months, impossibly sunk the winning putt for Europe, then retired from professional golf. BOOM! One of the all-time greatest pressure-packed moments in tournament golf.