Why don’t PGA Tour players know the Rules?


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.

Both Brooke Henderson and Adam Hadwin flirted with the lead this weekend in their respective tournaments, almost making this question moot before it was asked: Do you think a Canadian will win on the LPGA or PGA Tour this year and if so, who will it be?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Funnily enough, I’d say Adam Hadwin and Brooke Henderson, and I’m sorry the question wasn’t moot!  Adam did everything he could to win on Sunday, Brooke had a rare off day.  But there are several other Canadians on both tours now, so it’s a toss-up as to who among them will win.  Let’s go with Adam Svensson and Alena Sharp.  The latter certainly deserves a win for longevity and perseverance.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Canadians on Tour will win on both circuits in 2019. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Brooke on the LPGA Tour. Pretty obvious really – she’s a superstar. Choices are; Hearn, Hughes, Hadwin, Sloan, Svensson, Taylor, Silverman, Conners, and Weir? That’s a little more difficult. Hadwin has as good a shot as any I suppose and has showed the most consistent results the last 12 months. Hughes: flashes of brilliance, along with Conners and Silverman. I wouldn’t count out Sloan, Svensson or Taylor. My dark horse is Hearnsy though, don’t count him out, he’s been around these courses for eight seasons. If you’re pinning me down to one though, its; had win (Hadwin).

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Looking into the crystal ball of anything is among one of the most difficult tasks there is but here goes. First, what a great time for Canadian professional golf! The fruits of labour are producing fantastic results! The Golf Canada coaching schools, the Junior programs in every province, the Canadian/MacKenzie Tour. Currently, there are are 8 men who have status of some kind on the PGA Tour and 5 women on the LPGA Tour. This is the most we have ever had. On the men’s side my pick is Corey Conners who seems to be improving year over year. When he does get into contention he seems to be able to get the job done. Id love to see Graham DeLeat be rewarded for past efforts and David Hearn too but life’s not like that. On the women’s tour you can’t make an intelligent pick without it being Brooke Henderson. She is one of the best players in the world and can contend in any given week. Plus, she’s steadily improving and getting more and more confident. Jaclyn Lee, Brittany Marchand, Alena Sharp and Anne Catherine Tanguay will all learn from their current status but winning isn’t easy!

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think Brooke is going to win not once, not twice, but thrice this season (including a major). My expectations for the Canadian men are not nearly as high but I could see Corey Conners collecting his first career PGA Tour victory in 2019 if everything happens to break his way one week.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. Brooke should win multiple times this year, and given the start by the guys, we could have a few of them in contention numerous times this year. Hadwin is the obvious choice, but given his past success at the Desert Classic, maybe that was his best chance?  So, I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Corey Conners.  OK, it’s not that flimsy of a limb, since he already has a 2nd and 3rd place finish this year, but he’s got the talent to win, and I think it will happen sooner than later. Going back to the women, aside from Brooke, I think that Brittany Marchand has a great chance to hit the winner’s circle.  She has a year under her belt, learning the ropes, the courses, the travel, etc. and she’ll content at some point this year.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver:  I’d put my money – not that I condone betting on golf – on Brooke continuing her great play of last year by notching another win or two. Really like the way she and her sister play to win. Knocking on the door next just might be Corey Connors. Don’t think he’s afraid to play late Sunday afternoons. Poor Hadwin. But we can all relate to blasting an 8 iron 170 yards on the final hole, right?

We’re three tournaments into 2019 and players on the PGA Tour still exhibit uncertainty about the new rules, perhaps none more so than Phil Mickelson, who looked like a total neophyte at one point when he needed a ruling. Are you surprised that these professionals aren’t more up to speed on the Rules?

Deeks: Yes, I am surprised, but I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if it makes them look less than professional.  It may take a few events for them all to be totally comfortable, and since the rule changes were generally an improvement over the past regime, I’m not going to lose any sleep over slight delays on television for occasional rules clarifications.  As one who has never adhered to the rules very closely (except in tournaments), I’m not going to lose any sleep over possible misinterpretations in my own game, either.

Loughry: I’m not surprised that players don’t know the new Rules, not at all. Most of them didn’t know most of the “old” Rules either. They rely heavily on their Rules Officials to walk them around every little need. The only reason I can think of why this is the case, is that they must be terrified to do the wrong thing which I can understand when you’re playing for $$$$ millions. Players just don’t want to make a mistake that could cost them money. I’d say only a handful of players and caddies know the Rules the way they should. What I don’t understand is knowing that every player and caddie is looking for an advantage in all facets of the game, course mapping, technology, fitness/health. So, why the hell aren’t Rules looked at the same way? If they put a quarter of the same effort into knowing the Rules, they’d all be better off. Tell me it isn’t an advantage knowing the Rules. Pretty sure knowing the Rules helped Spieth win an Open Championship in 2017. There are many other examples I could provide. Good players and caddies will take the time to review the Rules – others, well, spoon feeding required.

Schurman: This is a complete mystery to me. My accountant spends thousands of dollars every year taking courses to ensure his firm is completely up to date with new changes in tax law. Every top performer in every profession does the same. How can a competitor layout a course strategy when they don’t know the parameters? About 50 years ago, I was playing on the Canadian Tour. During a practice round, the Executive Director of the Tour and a personal friend came by on a cart while I was playing a practice round. He asked me if I had hit a shot from a particular Drop Area on the 18th hole. I said “No, I won’t be over there”. He told me of a little quirk on the Rules Sheet that would allow a player to apply a lateral water hazard rule instead of out of bounds due to a mix-up in the wording on the Rules Sheet. Sure, enough several players found themselves making sixes and sevens on the hole because they didn’t read the Rules Sheet and two of them played an awkward shot from a Drop Area when there was a second Drop Area available. Of course, there’s always Craig Stadler and the “towel”. Stadler played incorrectly under a rule that was changed during the off-season. Notices were sent to every player, but he didn’t read his. Too bad!

Kaplan: I figured they would be on top of them, considering how much you can game the system with a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the rules. In fairness, however, there are way too many rules as it stands right now, and I’m not going to hold any player accountable for not knowing the particularities of a small handful of them when most NFL referees and replay officials still cannot decipher what constitutes a legal catch.

Rule: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy that they still don’t understand the rule changes, especially since they aren’t all that difficult to understand.  If they were able to know all the rules previously…oh wait, most of them probably didn’t, and therein lies the root of the problem. And I guess the guys don’t want to make a mistake, so they take the safe road and ask an official.  But it shouldn’t take long for them to learn all the changes, or at least for their caddies to be 100% sure of the ruling. Isn’t that part of their job?

Quinn: It’s understandable when you realize that Phil had played under the old and ancient rules for more than four decades. I didn’t understand the new simpleminded rules — otherwise known as how guys have cheated for their entire lives — until watching a very simple video put out by the USGA and R&A. After that, I disagreed with them even more, but I think it will help bad, and more importantly, new players. With potentially a couple hundred grand (U.S.) riding on correct rulings, I’d be careful and not mind appearing dumb to get it right.

After his group was put on the clock for slow play at the Latin American Amateur Championship, eventual winner Alvaro Ortiz began to play ahead of his playing partners to avoid a slow play penalty. On at least one hole he had teed off on the next hole while the rest of his group was still putting on the last. How do you view his behaviour? Should you penalize a player for excessively fast play?

Deeks: It sounds to me like very childish and petulant behaviour on Ortiz’s part.  (I’m sorry to say I wasn’t at the event.)   Mind you, playing with slow partners can be very annoying and off-putting, and if there’s a potential penalty involved, I’d be kinda tempted to be childish and petulant myself.  I don’t know if he said anything to his partners, but if not, a polite “guys, speed it up… I am NOT going to take a penalty because of your slow play!” might have sufficed.

Loughry: His behaviour wasn’t outrageous. It goes to show that you can still play good golf fast. Sure, maybe he didn’t need to be quite that far ahead, but I have no doubt it sent a message to the other players in his group. And why would Ortiz want to risk a penalty and potentially then lose the event and his ticket to the Masters? How would that look? How would everyone feel about this situation if that happened? He’s young, he wanted the win and the Masters trip, cut him a little slack.

Schurman: I am not a fast player! I’m not slow either. I have a pace that gets me around an open course in a foursome that takes about 4:00 to 4:15 hrs. Playing with someone who stands over the ball forever, is disorganized, not ready to play, spends too much time walking to their ball leaving less time to play are all unnecessary. While Ortiz’ method may be a bit questionable there aren’t a lot of choices. Rory Sabbatini did the exact same thing and got an equal amount of criticism and support from his peers. Once a group is put “on the clock’ they are all being timed. How is it fair that a slow player causes the group to be timed and then the faster players encounter a time-consuming situation and are subject to a penalty? The only answer is a shot clock.

Kaplan: I love it! Tell me you’ve never thought about doing this on the golf course when playing a Saturday round with three human sloths. If you’re playing partner is already on the next tee block and you are still putting—and they didn’t run or rush in any way to get there—you know you are playing too slow and it’s time to pick up the pace.

Rule: That seems like an extreme measure that he took to avoid a penalty.  In an event of that magnitude, don’t they have several rules officials walking the course, and if a group is put on the clock, each player is timed and as long as that player doesn’t exceed that time limit on his shot, he’s fine.  So why would he have to run ahead?  Seems like he was panicking and should have just spoken with a rules official if he was concerned.  Should he be penalized for fast play? Not sure, that’s a tough one, but at the very least, it isn’t in the spirit of the game.

Quinn: Sabbatini did the same on the big boys Tour, but only after getting the go ahead (so to speak) from the on-course rules official. It’s great that the turtles are exposed and leaving them behind focusses the attention (and rules officials) on them better than anything else. Penalize the repeat offenders (with strokes so it will cost them cash) and let the good guys play at the proper pace.

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

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