Wednesday, June 29

Greenbrier Owner Jim Justice: 'It's Impossible to Describe the Devastation'

TRAGIC NEWS OUT OF WEST VIRGINIA since last Thursday, including the cancellation of the Greenbrier Classic, which is minor compared to the loss of life, homes and more.

Coincidentally, I was driving through West Virginia that Thursday when torrential rains devastated parts of the state. It was slow going, and dangerous -- I saw a car spin out in front of me and hit a concrete median -- but I had no idea there was catastrophic flooding until later. I drove on through Ohio and made it safely to Indianapolis that day.

The Greenbrier was hit especially hard. More from the Charleston Gazette-Mail:
"It's impossible to describe the devastation," [Jim] Justice said. 
Flooding had engulfed the area. Lives were lost. Tragedy had struck. And, as an aside to the devastation, Justice’s baby, his joy, the Greenbrier Classic, a multi-million dollar PGA Tour event, was scratched. 
"We started conversations late, late Thursday," said Andy Pazder, executive vice president and chief of operations of the PGA Tour. "We started seeing the images. Then, on Friday, we saw the devastation, not only to the golf course, but to the town. We made the decision Saturday." 
It was tough for Pazder, who happens to be a 1988 graduate of West Virginia University. He knows the state. Also, he was in the early meetings to place a PGA event in the Mountain State back in 2009. 
"It was hard to look at those images," Pazder said. "I've always had a special connection to West Virginia and the tournament." 
The Classic overcame the winds of a derecho in 2012, but Justice said he knew immediately. There would be no event in 2016.

VIDEO: Jordan Spieth May Be Next to Reject Rio


WORRIED ABOUT A MOSQUITO, would-be Olympic golfers have been dropping like flies.

Jason Day and Shane Lowry are the most recent high-profile golfers who have announced they will be sitting out the 2016 Olympic Games.

Who will be next?

Perhaps Jordan Spieth, who is expressing doubts in the above clip.

"If I see any significant threat," Spieth said, "is it worth it? Probably not."

At the moment, eight of the top 11 players in the world are still committed to the Rio Games. They are Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Danny Willett, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

Monday, June 27

Muirfield Will Vote Again on Female Membership

NOW THAT IT HAS LOST the British Open, Muirfield is rethinking the necessity of female members.

The Associated Press reported:
GULLANE, Scotland — Muirfield intends to stage another vote on whether to admit female members after being stripped of its right to host the British Open. 
The Scottish club failed in May to get the two-thirds majority required of its membership to change its policy, drawing disapproval from across golf.
In addition, Henry Fairweather, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, said:

"The club committee believes that a clear and decisive vote in favor of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the club that has been damaged by the earlier ballot outcome."

Muirfield has hosted the British Open 16 times dating back to 1892, including in 2013 when Phil Mickelson surprised the golf world with his first Open victory. I have a feeling the vote will come out differently the second time around.

Friday, June 24

Oops! ARMCHAIR GOLF Misquotes Carl Sagan

It is far better to grasp golf as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
– (not said by) Carl Sagan

Biographical note: Carl Sagan was an American astronomer and astrochemist.

This misquote brought to you by The Armchair Golfer.
Getting it wrong for the love of the game.

Wednesday, June 22

Citing Zika Virus, Rory Drops Out of Olympics

RORY MCILROY HAS PULLED OUT of the Olympic Games, joining Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman and Vijay Singh. ESPN.com reports that Rickie Fowler might be next.

The Olympic golf movement is in shambles, and, based on what I read, the entire Rio Games seem to be hanging by a thread. Sad stuff, to be sure.

McIlroy's statement:
After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. 
After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realise that my health and my family's health comes before anything else.
Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take. 
I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me. 
I will continue to endeavour to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.

Tuesday, June 21

Regret City: The USGA and Dustin Johnson Ruling

THE USGA DOESN'T CALL THIS an apology. But I think we can call it an apology. It registers a 10 on the regret meter. Players and others in the golf world, in what seemed like a unanimous voice, blasted the organization for its handling of the Dustin Johnson rules incident during the final round of the U.S. Open. Fortunately, DJ cruised to his first major win despite the distraction.

USGA Statement Regarding Dustin Johnson Ruling

The USGA wishes to congratulate Dustin Johnson on his victory and thank him, and the other players in the field, for their professionalism and grace throughout the championship. Dustin is a wonderful champion, a talented golfer and a gentleman.

Our team at the USGA has seen and heard a great deal of discussion and debate about the ruling on Dustin’s ball moving during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club. In addition to the explanations we offered upon the conclusion of the final round, we add these comments.

Upon reflection, we regret the distraction caused by our decision to wait until the end of the round to decide on the ruling. It is normal for rulings based on video evidence to await the end of a round, when the matter can be discussed with the player before the score card is returned. While our focus on getting the ruling correct was appropriate, we created uncertainty about where players stood on the leader board after we informed Dustin on the 12th tee that his actions on the fifth green might lead to a penalty. This created unnecessary ambiguity for Dustin and the other players, as well as spectators on-site, and those watching and listening on television and digital channels.

During any competition, the priority for Rules officials is to make the correct ruling for the protection of the player(s) involved and the entire field. In applying Rule 18-2, which deals with a ball at rest that moves, officials consider all the relevant evidence – including the player’s actions, the time between those actions and the movement of the ball, the lie of the ball, and course and weather conditions. If that evidence, considered together, shows that it is more likely than not that the player’s actions caused the ball to move, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty. Officials use this “more likely than not” standard because it is not always apparent what caused the ball to move. Such situations require a review of the evidence, with Decision 18-2/0.5 providing guidance on how the evidence should be weighed.

Our officials reviewed the video of Dustin on the fifth green and determined that based on the weight of the evidence, it was more likely than not that Dustin caused his ball to move. Dustin’s putter contacted the ground at the side of the ball, and almost immediately after, the ball moved.

We accept that not everyone will agree that Dustin caused his ball to move. Issues under Rule 18-2 often require a judgment where there is some uncertainty, and this was one of those instances. We also understand that some people may disagree with Rule 18-2 itself. While we respect the viewpoints of those who disagree, our Committee made a careful and collective judgment in its pursuit of a fair competition played under the Rules of Golf.

In keeping with our commitment to excellence in all aspects of our work on behalf of the game of golf, we pledge to closely examine our procedures in this matter. We will assess our procedures for handling video review, the timing of such, and our communication with players to make sure that when confronted with such a situation again, we will have a better process.

We at the USGA deeply appreciate the support of players, fans, and the entire golf community of our championships and our other work for golf – and we appreciate your feedback as well. We have established an email address (comments@usga.org) and phone mailbox (908-326-1857) to receive comments. We thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.


Monday, June 20

Bitter Ending for Lowry, Sweet Redemption for DJ



By Brian Keogh

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

SHANE LOWRY CONFESSED HE WAS "bitterly disappointed" to blow a four-shot lead but insisted that Dustin Johnson deserved his US Open triumph despite a rules decision delay that took some drama out of the back nine. The 29-year old from Offaly dropped three shots on the front nine to fall behind, then three-putted the 14th, 15th and 16th and carded a six over 76 to end up tied for second, three behind the eventual champion on one under.

Though he birdied the last and the scoreboard showed a 68 for a four shot win on five under par, Johnson was handed a one-stroke penalty for causing his ball to move at the fifth and signed for a 69 and three shot win on four under 276.

"I'm bitterly disappointed, standing here," Lowry said. "It's not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn't take it. But you can only learn from your mistakes. I always say it's only a mistake if you don't learn from it."

Lowry tied for second with Jim Furyk (66) and Scott Piercy (69) on one under par 279 as controversy raged over the USGA's handling of Johnson's rules infraction. The timing of the penalty caused confusion for millions of television viewers and left the players uncertain of exactly where they stood.

Johnson said at the fifth he had not caused his ball to move but officials reviewed video evidence and came back out to tell him at the 12th that they believed he had a case to answer. As Johnson was adamant he was in the right, the officials opted to wait until after the round to discuss it with him in more detail and show him the video and explain their exact interpretation of the rule.

In the end, he was not penalised until after he had finished on the 18th, hitting a stellar approach to five feet and rolling in the putt for birdie.

"We were told walking on 12," Lowry said when asked at which point he became aware that Johnson might be one shot worse off that the leaderboards suggested.

"No, it didn't affect the way I played. If anything, I credit Dustin for playing the way he played on the way in, having that hanging over him, because I probably would have wanted to know straightaway if it was me. So yeah, that's what we were told."

It was sad end to a wonderful week for the 29-year old from Offaly, but for Johnson, who three putted the 72nd hole to lose the US Open to Jordan Spieth last year, it was sweet redemption.

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

Friday, June 17

VIDEO: Phil Mickelson on Why Oakmont Is His Best Chance



PHIL MICKELSON HAS FINISHED SECOND a half dozen times in the U.S. Open. At age 46, can Lefty finally break through and win the national championship?

He certainly thinks so. And in the above clip he tells why Oakmont and his experience give him a great chance this year.

Midway through his opening round, Phil is 1 under and sits three shots off the lead set by Andrew Landry.