The Sentry Tournament of Champions provided us with beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean, views of the lush island of Maui, and whales making their yearly trek from Alaska to paradise. On top of that we were given an incredible showdown between Gary Woodland and Xander Schauffele. “The X” carded an 11 under 62, en route to a one shot victory over the 54-hole leader Woodland. This was just what the golf doctor ordered to get me back into PGA Tour golf and make me very thankful for Pacific Standard Time. Kapalua is being rewarded with a face lift by Coore and Crenshaw, to improve the green conditions on top of other things. This is a great start to the year, with it’s laid back vibes, wild winds, and crazy camera angles, it makes for that kick in the shorts us golf fans need to get in gear.
There was an overarching theme this week and that was the implementation of the new USGA Rules. There are a number of rules that have been tweaked, mostly verbiage and rhetoric, but the two main items that stuck out to me were flagsticks staying in on the green and dropping from the knee. Both were on full display, discussed by many, and yet I still don’t understand the point of the changes.
Lets start with the flag stick being allowed to stay in while you putt. Apparently there is some advantage depending on the distance in which you are putting from and the “COR” of the flag stick. COR to me stands for Change Order, to Bryson it stands for Coefficient of Restitution. Yea give me a break. This is one of the first rules you learn as a golfer, you take the stick out when you putt, simple as that. Phil takes the damn thing out when he chips, and “needs to make it”. Last time I checked, the flag stick doesn’t have a glove on it, that catches your ball as it rolls by. With more pertinent issues like rolling back of the golf ball or equipment and greens books that have more information than a Bloomberg terminal this just seems like a waste of time to implement.
The one that really bothers me is dropping the golf ball from your knee. We’ve got a bunch of grown men, poking their hips out, doing a little sorority squat and dropping the ball on the ground. Again, I scratch my head, how much real advantage do you get from dropping from your knee? Half of the speed, keeping the ball from rolling? With the old drop, you could still replace the ball on the third drop that rolled away. Maybe the thought was eliminating the re-drops saves time and increases pace of play. Regardless, the fact that you will be penalized if you choose to drop above the knee? Why would the rule state that you can drop anywhere no lower than the knee? There is something satisfying about “dropping the mic’ after you lose a golf ball. It just helps let the frustration out, instead now we will politely curtsy to the USGA and gently drop our ball down beside us.
There were some good changes made, like being able to repair any imperfection in your putting line including spike marks, removing loose impediments from “penalty areas’, allowing you to ground your club in a penalty area, and improving the out of bounds protocol. All of these are fine and well, but some of the changes just seemed to be in the sake of making change not good change.
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