PGA Tour Must Take Harder Line on Cheating Allegations

Accusations of cheating are tossed around as casually as wedding confetti in most sports, whether it’s Tom Brady’s flaccid ball or Neymar’s roll playing. Not in golf, though. The PGA Tour markets itself as a roving Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, in which upright citizens conduct themselves with probity while helping bestow charitable riches in towns across America.

That image isn’t entirely contrived. The overwhelming majority of Tour pros are honest competitors, and public claims of unscrupulous on-course behavior are rare. Sure, not everyone meets the loftiest standards of conduct, but you can appreciate why the Tour’s old motto sacrificed awkward accuracy — “99 Percent of These Guys Are Good” – for comforting sentiment.

When the Rules of Golf make news, it’s almost always due to unwitting infractions or witless enforcement. Seldom because of an alleged deliberate violation. That’s what made the recent episode between Joel Dahmen and Sung Kang at the Quicken Loans National so extraordinary.

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Chamblee Back in the Swing

It’s 30 minutes from Carnoustie across the River Tay to Scotscraig Golf Club. Unless you’re Brandel Chamblee, in which case the winding journey takes about 15 years.

On July 23, the day after the 147th British Open at Carnoustie concludes, the Golf Channel analyst plans to tee it up at Scotscraig in an effort to qualify for the Senior Open, held that week in St. Andrews. Scotscraig is where he qualified for the 1995 Open at the Old Course, adding a note of nostalgia to his quest.

 

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John Daly Now Beyond Benefit of the Doubt

The number that best defines John Daly’s career depends largely upon whom you ask. His many fans might offer “302” – Daly’s average driving distance in 1997, when he became the first man on the PGA Tour to break that now quaint 300-yard barrier. Or “5,” for his Tour wins, a meager tally given his enormous talent. Perhaps even “2,” for the major victories that place him in rarified company.

For me, the telling number is “48.” That’s how many times Daly has withdrawn from PGA Tour-sanctioned events during his uneven career.

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Check that.

It’s now “49” after his sulky exit from last week’s U.S. Senior Open. That figure omits the eight DQ’s he’s racked up, or his consistently dominating performance in the strokes gained half-hearted effort category.

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Backstopping Brings Out the Fire in Paul Azinger

In an era when relationships among the world’s best golfers lean more toward hugs than hostility, Paul Azinger is an unapologetic throwback to a time when Tour pros would think twice about even giving each other a Heimlich.

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Paul Azinger.

He doesn’t play much these days, but Azinger’s love of competition – the honor of it, as much as the thrill – remains undimmed. If only some of today’s players felt as competitive as the guy in the booth at the 118th U.S. Open Championships.

It should come as no surprise that the Fox Sports lead analyst is openly hostile to backstopping, the controversial “helping hand” practice that has been the subject of heated debate on the grounds at Shinnecock Hills.

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Shot Clock Can Shame Tour Tortoises

I chatted recently with a caddie who had the misfortune of being grouped with one of the PGA Tour’s slowest players for the final round of an event in which his boss was contending. Just a few holes in, the twosome was put on the clock. The caddie, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, simmered quietly. The Tortoise quickened for exactly as long as the rules official remained and ground to a near-halt immediately after he departed. The caddie boiled over and angrily whispered directions to the Tortoise on how he ought to go forth and multiply.

Some folks will consider such a comment out of order. They’d be wrong.

That bagman is a hero.

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Brandon Hagy’s Battle Back

This is a big week for one of the biggest hitters on the PGA Tour. Not that you’ll see Brandon Hagy at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Instead, he’ll be about 600 miles to the north in the less glamorous precincts of Ivanhoe, Ill., where he’ll make the first start in his comeback from injury at the Web.com Tour’s appropriately named Rust-Oleum Championship.

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Jodie Mudd: Golf’s Forgotten Man

“Jodie used to have a gorgeous golf swing. He made the game look so simple.”

“I’m not sure anyone was really close to him.”

“Funny how you remember things about someone. He had a huge forward press as he started his swing. Then he just flushed it.”

“He was a quiet man.”

This week is when Mudd makes his annual appearance on Tour, albeit only as a ghostly figure on Players Championship highlight reels. It’s been 28 years since he won and almost that long since he walked away from the game.

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Jodie Mudd.

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Obnoxious Fans Just Won’t Go Away

The debate over unruly crowd behavior at golf tournaments is – much like those troublesome fans – growing louder, increasingly fractious and more persistent. A welcome respite looms at golf’s marquee event.

You probably won’t hear much chatter on that subject during the Masters, chiefly because you won’t hear much of the hecklers either. Enforcing rules that seem outdated is a tradition unlike any other at Augusta National, but one tradition warrants celebrating: A patron who bellows abuse or inanities at a player quickly will feel security on his collar (it’s always a “him”) and swiftly be shown to the street.

You won’t hear Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley asking for patience or acceptance of the lobotomized louts, or requesting that players simply deal with the disruption. Spectators pay to watch the show, not to be part of it. The Masters Committee understands that.

Why can’t the PGA Tour?

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What Golf Needs: A Generational Rivalry

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The once and future kings: Woods and Spieth.

The PGA Tour has hewed to a familiar script over the last few years, as a succession of recent high schoolers hoist trophies that almost weigh more than they do.

It’s a generation of fine players – these Justin Thomases, Jordan Spieths and Jon Rahms – and many of them seem destined for the Hall of Fame. But there’s a uniformity to their cohort, well-adjusted kids who are more likely to spend tournament nights downing kale smoothies at the gym than shots of bourbon at a saloon.

Which is fair enough. That Tour is long dead, as are most of the guys who lived it.

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Mark Hensby’s Curious Suspension

Mark Hensby is familiar with punishment that seems harsh for the crime. He learned that growing up in Australia, when a sloppily made bed, an untidy closet, even cutlery held the wrong way, led to brutal beatings by his father.

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Time To Drop Hammer on Boorish Fans

It’s hard to avoid Golf Bro these days. He’s at every PGA Tour event, usually carrying more beer than brain cells, and always possessed of a garrulous self-regard while destitute of self-awareness.

If you’re not fortunate enough to attend a tournament to hear Golf Bro holler his witticisms in person, fear not, for he pollutes the airwaves as enthusiastically he does the fairways. When did you last enjoy a broadcast without shots being punctuated with cries of “Baba Booey” or “Mashed Potato?” Those well-worn phrases are seemingly akin to reciting Shakespeare for the sloshed.

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Time PGA Tour Took Stand On Slow Play

 

It’s probably for the best that J.B. Holmes didn’t play the Sony Open in Hawaii a few weeks ago, since a man who can’t pull the trigger on laying up into the rough within four minutes surely would be paralyzed with uncertainty when faced with an alert about an incoming ballistic missile.

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J.B. Holmes.

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Tour Pros See Opportunity, Not Nuance in Course Design

Golfers who play for a living tend to look at courses the way the rest of us look at office cubicles – just a functional place in which to ply one’s trade. Sure, some feel more comfortable and fit the eye better than others, but you’re there to make money, not study the artistry of the workspace.

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The Coore-Crenshaw course at Kapalua in Maui.

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