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Monday, March 18, 2019

Moving The Players to March a Success

Even as playing conditions deteriorated on Sunday it seems clear that moving The Players back to it's traditional March place on the calendar was a success.

The different conditions, from wind, temperatures, and overseed, caused the course to come back alive and created a thrilling finish.

I was fortunate enough to attend this year's event and I have to say that the course was in nearly perfect shape rivaling the best conditions I've ever seen on any course. I mean, Augusta National always being the benchmark that will never be matched of course.

A very tight leaderboard throughout the weekend filled with both veterans and new stars made the golf must watch for any fan of the professional game. In the end, it was Rory McIlroy returning to the winner's circle after being able to hold on against an amazing display of skill and courage from the great Jim Furyk and a mix of the games newest and brightest stars.

Having The Players back in March makes me wonder why it was ever moved in the first place. Well done to all involved.

Other notes from The Players

Abusive and Rowdy fans are still a problem for the Tour

The PGA Tour continues to have a problem with a few rowdy fans ruining the atmosphere at their tournaments. Beyond the handful of idiots that continue to insist on shouting "go in the hole" and "baba booey" there was a general party atmosphere around the 17th hole that felt unfortunate again this year. Ian Poulter pointed out on his Instagram the embarrassing level that golf fandom seems to have fallen too for some with this post:

Solutions are hard to come by as it only takes a few people to ruin a good thing. Sure, limiting or even stopping the sale of alcohol at the event might help, but let's be real. That isn't about to happen and wouldn't be a complete solution. Some people are just self-centered jerks and want to feel like they are a part of something instead of respecting their role as a spectator. Clearly, this is a societal issue more than just a PGA Tour issue. At best, we might be able to shame the guilty into better behavior but the attention that would give them might only feed the beast. For now, we might have to just admit that these continuing issues are going to be a part of the game. Not a proud moment.

New rules continue to be controversial

Webb Simpson was assessed a one-stroke penalty when he accidentally caused his ball to move on the 14th hole Sunday. Following the round, Simpson offered the following explanation of the issue. (via Golfweek) "My ball's on the fringe, and I was seeing if I was standing in the rough or if I was going to get both feet in the fringe or whatever and then the end of my putter just got stuck on my shirt and it moved the ball."

Under Rule 9.4b, that's a penalty. What aggravated Simpson, and does seem to be a bit of an issue that needs to be looked at by the USGA, is that if his ball had been on the putting surface itself, instead of on the fringe, no penalty would have been called. Suddenly "intent" is brought into play if the ball is on the green itself.

In another example, on Friday Tiger Woods fell victim to not knowing that the new rules could have saved his round and kept him near the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend. Woods hit his first ball on the 17th hole over the green and into the water. However, the ball entered the water from the narrow spit of land used to access the famous island green. Due to the new rules that allow for a one club length halo surrounding the drop point, in this specific instance,  because of the particular pin placement in use that day, video evidence suggested that Woods could have played his third shot from the walkway instead of playing from the drop zone some 80 yards from the green.

Not being aware of that option, Woods proceeded to hit his shot from the drop zone into the water again and went on to take a 7 on the par-3. Had he been aware of the situation, or if there had been an official in place to advise him of his alternative, Woods could have chipped or perhaps putted his third shot from the walkway, potentially turning that 7 into an up-and-down bogie or perhaps even a miracle par.

No one is blaming Woods for not realizing the option was on the table. Several other players admitted to not being aware that the rule, in this rather unique instance, was available to be applied in such a way as to be able to save Woods at least 2-strokes.

That the powers that be are working on the rules of the game to make them better is great. But, after this weekend, it's clear that we still have some way to go to get them where they need to be.

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