A collection of golf news, notes, and thoughts from the week highlighted by the controversial finish to the first major of the 2017, the Ana Inspiration, won by So Yeon Ryu, with Russell Henley booking a Masters spot after a convincing victory in Houston.
It takes something for a win-and-you’re-in scenario related to the Masters to not be top billing on the Sunday before the Masters but that was the case at Rancho Mirage as Lexi Thompson’s four-stroke penalty led to Ryu’s second major triumph.
We will deal with the fallout/ruling later in the column but the situation saw Thompson assessed a four-stroke penalty after a viewer contacted the LPGA/tournament officials after the play on Saturday about an error Thompson made marking her ball prior to putting out on the 17th on Saturday. Players (Thompson and those still on the course in contention) were advised as Thompson left the 12th hole on Sunday – nearly 24 hours after the fact. The American birdied thrice more (plus a bogey on 16) but Ryu’s birdie on 18 (the only time she led all week) set it up for Thompson to send the tournament into a playoff with a birdie of her own on 18.
Ryu was risky by nearly over cooking her second shot on the par five 18 but ended up with a win following a birdie on 18, which was the playoff hole, to claim a second major to go with her 2011 US Open crown.
In Houston Henley booked a Masters spot winning by three strokes at the Golf Club of Houston. Recent winner and a strong Masters contender Rickie Fowler was in the box seat after opening up with a round of eight under 64 on Thursday but finished four shots adrift.
Player performance notes
After finding the playoff protagonists at Rancho Mirage some more notes on players I’m interested in to see how they go with points that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. This weekend it’s the first men’s major of 2017 – the Masters at the famed Augusta National.
After noting last week a preference for Hideki Matsuyama, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Alex Noren and Thomas Pieters here are two others of interest given the last week or so.
Under 20: Jordan Spieth. The 2015 winner could easily be a three-time Green Jacket recipient and given he won at Bay Hill in February he is in form. His missed cut at the Houston Open last weekend could have advantaged him – as we noted last week the record of Houston Open winners to a following good performance at Augusta is not strong.
20 to 50: Paul Casey. T4 and T6 in the last two years at the Masters the world number 16 hasn’t won since 2014 however the Englishman finished fourth in the Tour Championship last season.
Greens in regulation
Swinging back to the controversy at the Mission Hills Country Club it’s worth a look at the process around adjudging Thompson’s penalty as there are a few layers. The use of ‘fan advice’ seems to be agreed upon by most as a poor option which shouldn’t be allowed. I agree with that however, setting aside this aspect, there are two linked elements around timing and viewing that need to be addressed – Deadline on calling penalties and subsequent advising of players.
Rules officials are already watching the coverage (as Rickie Fowler noted) so there needs to be clarity before each tournament as to how many will be doing so and their needs to a be a defined cut-off time (eg. one hour after the players’ round concludes and/or one cycle of watching the replays) from which a player can be penalised. This timing has a flow one impact to players on the course so all players needs to be advised of the penalty as soon as is practicable. Thompson was advised when she walked off the green on 12 but the NBC TV commentators started talking about the penalty as the group were playing the 12th green (and perhaps even on the fairway – I can’t recall precisely) and saying ‘Thompson will be advised of this after the grouping concluded this hole.’ Surely players should be advised ASAP – in what sport do TV viewers know a score ruling before the competitors taking part? Sure the end of the hole is a natural ‘break’ to advise a player of such a ruling but given the significance and penalty to be applied telling players immediately is critical. It should be noted previously in such a scenario (if discovered by a rules official promptly) Thompson would have been disqualified after the third round. A harsh, but ironically fairer process for all involved.
One final aspect to note on this matter is the winner Ryu could have made the same error on Sunday but hardly anyone (bar the gallery) would know as the then world number three was hardly featured in the jingoistic coverage (I recalled perhaps seeing two shots across her last six regulation holes.) Any upgraded rules system would have to follow all groups in contention as we can’t rely just on television coverage in this example.
Pivoting back to Augusta, if you are a fringe golf fan without a particular affinity to a player I’ll offer you one to support: Gary Woodland. The American withdrew from the Match Play event recently due to a personal matter and it has since transpired his wife Gabby has lost one of the two twins she is pregnant with due to complications. Yes, it’s only a golf tournament, but world number 36 Woodland, who has two second-place finishes to his credit this season, is not without a chance here and would certainly be the sentimental favourite if he was in or near the lead on Sunday by the time he got to Amen Corner.
This golfing wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport