Mexico, new rules & pros wearing shorts

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.

The WGC Mexico Championship featured a new venue for the PGA Tour after abandoning Trump Doral. Dustin Johnson cemented his status as World #1 with a win while the leaderboard featured a who’s who of top players and up-and-comers. What was your take on the first WGC event of the year?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): For me, it was mildly interesting.  The golf course looked pretty ho-hum, except for the Mexico City skyline in the background, and the constant references by the announcers that “all putts break toward the centre of the city”.  That’s a new one for me.  Also, having McIlroy, Spieth and Mickelson in the mix made it more interesting than an event featuring unknowns.  But I must call out NBC for almost NEVER showing Tommy Fleetwood, Ross Fisher, and Thomas Pieters, who finished 2, T3 and T5 respectively.  It’s as if Trump was calling the camera shots in the truck.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The first WGC event wasn’t bad; not bad at all. It had some good storylines with Rory being there, and his pairing with Mickelson, and of course DJ putting a stamp on his #1 ranking. The course looked good but apparently the HEAT was blistering. Overall I’d give it an A grade.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I thought the venue was awesome.  The altitude added another dimension of difficulty for the players and it was fun to see them try to adjust for it, especially with such narrow tree-lined fairways. The field put on a show, especially Phil, and the crowd ate it right up.  Easily the best tournament of the year so far.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It was interesting watching guys blast the ball 400 yards in that thin air in Mexico City! But man, was that a tight golf course.  Kept the big stick out of most of the guys’ hands, which makes DJ’s victory all the more impressive.  He didn’t over power the golf course, but kept the ball in play and putted great on the weekend, well deserved #1 world ranking!  I think it was a success; it was a star studded leaderboard, which made for good viewing.  I’m just glad that everyone was able to get across the wall to get there!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Thank the golf gawds that they weren’t playing the Mad Tweeter in Chief’s Doral on the weekend while he was railing against his phones being tapped by Obama. The timing of a tourney in Mexico was exquisite, the crowds were great and the course made for very entertaining golf. It’s scary how good DJ is when he’s putting well; it was good to see Rory back, and Phil was the Thrill again. What was not to like? Terrific call by the Tour to leave Miami for Mexico City.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m likely in the minority here but I like tighter courses that force players to think instead of just bombing it all the time. With Chapultepec at 7,500 feet ASL, this could have been silly on a wide open course but instead was very exciting. Another feature of WGC events that makes them compelling is the presence of a lot of international stars that we don’t see much outside the majors and Ryder Cup like Tommy Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters, both of whom finished in the Top 5. Finally, if you don’t already believe it, Jon Rahm sure looks like he’s the Spaniard to watch from now on. Sorry Sergio.

The governing bodies proposed a revised set of Rules last week that saw them simplified and shortened. Which change did you like best, was there one you don’t agree with or did any of them leave you confused or perplexed?

Deeks: The one I like best is tamping down “spike marks” (i.e., bumps and obstructions) in your putting line.  Most amateurs do it anyway, but it seems only fair for pro’s too… although it may add more boredom time for TV viewers as we watch players fix the line on 40-footers.  (But won’t it be nice to see pro’s no longer blaming spike marks on missed putts?)  I question the need for voluntarily taking your ball out of a bunker, and taking a two-stroke penalty… you might as well flail away in the sand for two shots, you might get lucky on the first.  Or, if you really hate traps that much, it’s much easier and less costly to just putt your ball out backwards.   Simplifying lost ball penalties was a step in the right direction, but I think they could still go much further and much simpler.

Kaplan: I love all of the rules that are geared towards fixing slow play.  The proposals of three-minute maximum searches, no penalties for playing out of turn, 40 seconds allotments per shot, and maximum score limits have me feeling optimistic that golf’s governing bodies are on the right track!

Rule: I like what they are doing; the rules need to be simplified.  I just hope people don’t take advantage of the rules that are left up to the player’s discretion a bit more, but let’s trust golfers to be the honest competitors that they are! The one that surprised me the most was the height from which you can drop a ball, you can virtually place the ball now, which avoids a ball bouncing into a divot.  I like the rules that try to speed up the game, but not sure if fixing imperfections in the green will accomplish that goal.

Quinn: Allowing minor repairs in putting lines is a long-overdue move. I have always thought that the penalty for fixing pitch marks and tamping down spike marks was inane and counter to fair play. Same goes for divots. They should have classified them all as Ground Under Repair. Don’t like the dropping the ball from as little as an inch above the ground — remember the old drop over the back shoulder? — and don’t like grounding the club in bunkers. There should have been more emphasis on pace of play. The new measures will have minimum effect.

Mumford: I loved the Rules changes as far as they go but there are two pivotal ones they missed. There’s absolutely no reason anymore for stroke-and-distance penalties. Given the wide latitude players have on lost balls under the proposed rules, the paint-em-all-red policy can work for everything. Second, the Rules didn’t address divots. They are GUR and when you look at all the other reasons for a free drop in the fairway, it’s bewildering why divots aren’t included. One perplexing new rule is the drop from one inch. I don’t see the need for that but if they’re so worried about balls rolling too far or the implications for re-dropping etc, why not just let the players place the ball?

The PGA of America recently announced that they will allow players to wear shorts during the practice rounds for the upcoming PGA Championship in August at Quail Hollow GC in Charlotte, NC. This is not without some vehement protest from a few of the more conservative voices amongst PGA pros. Do you think professional golfers wearing shorts during a practice round, or a tournament round for that matter, is unprofessional or should they be allowed to wear shorts?

Deeks: I’m 100% in favour of shorts every day.  If you don’t want to wear them no one’s going to force you to, but if you do want to wear them, why should someone else force you not to?  Obviously, there have to be some rules and standards applied, but let’s get with the times, shall we?

Loughry: Don’t get your shorts in a knot over this. I don’t think this is a big deal. I’m certain you won’t see it at any of the other Majors any time soon (practice rounds or not). If you’ve noticed anything the last several years, technology of clothing has certainly changed. I’m confident saying that pants are just as cool/comfortable as shorts these days. But hey, if you want to wear shorts, knock yourself out.

Kaplan: I’ve got no problem with it at all. Let them wear shorts. Unless it is cold, everyone that I know plays golf in shorts anyways. There’s nothing unprofessional about it — it’s a comfort thing. Besides, I think that it’s kind of hypocritical to allow players to strip down to their underwear to hit shots and still have a ban on shorts. That doesn’t make any sense. I, for one, am all for getting rid of golf’s outdated dress code. I get the most disgusting farmer’s tans every year because some jerks long ago decreed that I need to wear a sleeved and collared shirt in 30 degree weather? That’s ridiculous! I should be able to wear a tank top if I want to!

Rule: I don’t see how shorts are unprofessional to be honest.  I don’t see a reason why they can’t wear shorts during a tournament round, it sure wouldn’t offend me!

Quinn: Have never liked wearing shorts on the course, and only succumbed when the thermometer registered over 100 F.  Even then it didn’t feel right. Those representing the future of the game have a completely different fashion sense, and the new stars on Tour played college golf in shorts. But, I’m too much of a traditionalist. Don’t like the look, it is slightly disrespectful of the game’s heritage, and don’t think it works even in practice rounds.

Mumford: Letting Kaplan wear a tank top? No that’s going too far. But I say, let the pros wear shorts at all PGA Tour events. Virtually every other sport allows competitors of both sexes to wear shorts and to my knowledge, it hasn’t caused riots or unmentionable acts on TV. If some think shorts on pro golfers are unprofessional, how do they account for Loudmouth apparel?  (Note: the image that accompanies this article is a shot I took when playing with Greg Norman in Exuma. All of the women who’ve seen it say, absolutely, let them wear shorts!)

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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