Final version of new Rules of Golf include significant changes that affect everyday golfers

Sunday, March 11, 2018

First there was a draft. Then feedback. Then revisions.

Like Tiger Woods’s return to competitive form, updating the Rules of Golf has been a process.

But that process is now complete.

Having listened to input from golfers around the world, the game’s governing bodies Monday unveiled a final version of golf’s new rules, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Among other changes, they include fresh directives for how to take a drop, and an alternate solution for dealing with a lost ball or a ball knocked out of bounds. Clearer and more concise, the new rules are also kinder and gentler, with penalties softened in the name of pace of play and common sense.

“It’s been a long process but a gratifying one,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status. “Now comes the fun part where we get to share with the world everything that has been done.”

The world had a chance to have its say starting in March 2017, when the governing bodies put forth proposed revisions and opened them up to a six-month period of public feedback. During that time, more than 30,000 comments and suggestions poured in. That input had some sway.

While the majority of the proposed rules remain unaltered in the final version, there are several notable changes.

Take the dropping procedure. Last year’s proposal suggested that players be allowed to drop from as low as two inches off the ground, down from shoulder-height. Bad idea, the public said. Sure, a lower drop would help keep play moving by reducing the chance of a ball bounding out of the relief area and forcing a player to drop again. But two inches was too low. It was practically like placing the ball. If you were standing across the fairway from your playing partner, how could you be sure that they were dropping at all?

“A number of comments we received from all levels of the game wanted to see a certain amount of randomness maintained so that when you drop a ball, you’re not sure what kind of lie you’re going to get,” Pagel said. “But how do you ensure that randomness? Do you take it back to shoulder height? It was really about finding a balance of maintaining that randomness while also allowing the player to identify a relief area, drop there as quick as possible and play on.”

The new rules go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

The new rules go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.


The compromise? When taking relief, golfers will now drop from knee height.

The guidelines for measuring a relief area have also changed. Under the new rules, golfers will be allowed either one club-length or two-club lengths, depending on the situation (if you’re taking relief from a cart path, for instance, you’ll get one club length; if you’re dropping from a lateral hazard, you’ll get two). Last year’s proposed revisions suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard.

One of the underlying principles of the new rules is that golfers should not be penalized for unintentional acts that result in no benefit to them. To that end, the penalty for a double-hit (known to some fans as a “T.C. Chen,” in honor of the golfer whose chances at the 1985 U.S. Open came undone when he struck his ball twice with a single swing) has been eliminated, which was not the case under last year’s proposed revisions. Golfers will simply count the additional stroke they made while striking the ball.

That revision is in keeping with another change in the rules, which eliminates the penalty for a ball in motion striking a player.

“They really mirror each other in the thinking behind them,” Pagel said. “Say a ball bounces off a bunker face and comes back and hits you in the chest, it’s accidental. And it’s certainly not to your benefit.”

Another of the notable changes will resonate with any golfer who ever suffered the double-edged indignity of losing a ball and then having to walk back to hit the shot again. The new guidelines include a local rule giving committees leeway to do away with the stroke-plus-distance penalty. That would give golfers the simpler, less time-consuming option of dropping in the vicinity of where their ball went out-of-bounds or missing, under a two-stroke penalty. This rule won’t apply to professional tournaments or other elite-level competitions. It’s meant to keep things moving in everyday club and recreational play.

For recreational players, the days of stroke-and-distance penalties are numbered.  

For recreational players, the days of stroke-and-distance penalties are numbered.

“The concern we kept hearing was, ‘I can’t go back because the golf course is already log-jammed and my going back is bad for pace of play,'” Pagel said. “This local rule essentially replicates what would have been a decent shot with stroke and distance while keeping the player moving forward, which as we know is critically important.”

“From all levels of the game, what we heard was that if you let people repair damage, they’ll either take forever to do it, or essentially build a trough between their ball and the hole,” Pagel said. “But if those are valid concerns, there are already rules in place to address them. If a player takes two minutes to clean up the line, then the pace of play rule takes effect. If the player improves more than what is reasonable, there is already a rule that says you can’t improve your line of play.”

All of these revisions will now go into a rulebook that incorporates a host of other proposals put forth last year, which include a range of relaxed rules on greens, bunkers and penalty areas as well as the elimination or reduction of penalties for accidentally moving a ball.

It’s a lot to digest. But with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, the governing bodies will now get busy getting the word out to golfers around the world.

Already, 30 “how-to-apply” videos and a summary of the principal changes are now available at Additional education tools will be released in September, in plenty of time for us all to get ready for Jan. 1.



Phil Mickelson remains golf’s greatest showman  

13 hours ago

Phil Mickelson edged out Justin Thomas in sudden death at the WGC-Mexico Championship on Sunday, earning his first win in more than four-and-a-half years. That he won, however, is secondary. Victory or not, Mickelson’s display was theater of the highest degree.

Despite the Club de Golf Chapultepec demanding accuracy off the tee, Mickelson explored parts of Mexico that Coronado failed to discover. He hit fans, routinely short-sided himself and bogeyed one of the course’s easiest holes … you know, the general Mickelson repertoire. And yet his irons and wedges were magical, always managing to save him from tree limbs, patchy rough and galleries. Like Julius Erving with dunking, Mickelson has transformed scrambling from an act to an art form.

Better yet, his putting, historically uneven but solid thus far in 2018, continued to be stellar. He was in total control on the greens, dropping his share of bombs, yes, but more importantly taking care of the testy ones from six feet and in. If you’re wondering how one ranked 131st in strokes gained/off-the-tee has been one of this season’s most consistent players, look no further than his flat stick.

Of course, the mention of his play fails to encapsulate Mickelson’s performance, in every sense of the word. On Saturday, Mickelson inadvertently blew off 36-hole leader Shubhankar Sharma thinking he was a reporter. Cameras caught him telling fans he signs autographs after rounds … in fluent Spanish. Before play on Sunday, he asked Tyrrell Hatton, far from a stranger to golf’s biggest stages, how he pronounces his name. And during the final round, he aided Sharma on a ruling involving a drop, and gave more thumbs-up than a mother liking her children’s Facebook posts.

It was a stage for Mickelson’s goofiness, daring, vulnerability, talent, hubris and engagement. If one was forced to explain the Phil Mickelson Experience to the uninitiated, this weekend would serve as a proper “Best Of” montage.

World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship - Final Round
Ryan Young

The problem is that part of that experience often involves falling just short. Perhaps it’s an unfair sentiment; after all, the man has five majors and 43 PGA Tour wins to his credit. But—save for a future miracle at Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach or Winged Foot—his U.S. Open shortcomings are a central theme to his narrative, to say nothing of playing in the shadow of Tiger Woods. That he’s never led the PGA Tour money list or earned Player of the Year honors is remarkable. It’s a complicated tapestry, and a backdrop that adds to his aura.

Runner-up appeared to be Mickelson’s fate yet again on Sunday after Thomas dunked his approach on the 72nd hole for eagle, capping a marvelous weekend that saw the reigning PGA Championship winner post a 62 and 64. But Mickelson answered with vigor in consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, the latter thanks to a drained 20-footer, to gain entry into overtime with Thomas. On the first hole of sudden death—the par-3 17th— Mickelson lipped out a 20-footer for birdie, and it appeared fans would be treated to another playoff marathon. But following a so-so chip, Thomas failed to convert a six-footer, giving Mickelson his long-awaited W.

“It’s been a tough go the past four years, not playing my best, but to have the belief that I was going to get there and do it and eventually breakthrough is incredible,” Mickelson said. “I believe more is to come, and feel I’m starting to play my best golf.”

RELATED: The mysteries of Phil Mickelson

A concept inconceivable as late as last fall. There was a palpable sense at Liberty National that the proceedings could be Mickelson’s last for Team USA. He hadn’t played particularly well in 2017; following a flat performance at Quail Hollow, some speculated if off-the-course affairs—such as the parting with friend and long-time caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay and his involvement in an insider-trading case—had taken their toll on Mickelson’s vitality. Moreover, last we checked, golf’s top ranks have become inundated, and dominated by, youth. Turning 48 this June, Mickelson was nearing that purgatory where golfers aren’t old enough for the PGA Tour Champions circuit and disappear from weekend leader boards.

But the calendar turned, and here’s a rejuvenated Mickelson with a win and four additional top-six finishes in the early campaign. He added a newfound physicality in the offseason, and putting his brother on the bag full time has paid dividends. Efforts, Mickelson said, invested into making the American squad in Paris. Spring and summer will bring their share of surprises and nominations, but damned if Mickelson hasn’t already cobbled together a viable case to make his 12th consecutive Ryder Cup team.

World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship - Final Round
Gregory Shamus

Of course, that’s on the horizon, along with Augusta National in April and Shinnecock Hills in June, the site of one of his U.S. Open silver medals. Sunday was about Mickelson climbing back to the top, overcoming the bombers and young guns with a creativity and mettle rarely seen from today’s stars.

“I enjoy the challenge, to have something like this today makes it all worthwhile,” Mickelson said.

It’s fitting that Mickelson won on Oscars night, where 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles a film inspired by the creation of the Barnum & Bailey Circus was up for Best Original Song. Its title? “This is Me.” A tune tailored for golf’s greatest showman.


Justin Thomas edges Luke List in playoff to win Honda Classic


Sunday, February 25, 2018

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Justin Thomas was down to his last chance when he delivered his most clutch shot of the final round in the Honda Classic.

Turns out he wasn’t finished.

Thomas nearly holed a gap wedge on the par-5 18th hole for a birdie to force a playoff with Luke List. Moments later, he hit 5-wood over the water, urged it to keep going and lost it momentarily in the darkening sky over PGA National.

“All I was looking at was the water to see if it splashed,” Thomas said. “And it didn’t. So I figured I was in the bunker, and then people started clapping and I could kind of see some little white dot on the green.”

That set up a two-putt birdie that made him a winner when List, who hit his own bold shot in regulation to the 18th to set up birdie, could only manage par in the playoff.

Thomas closed with a 2-under 68 and won for the second time this season. He also won in a playoff at the CJ Cup in South Korea last fall. With eight career victories, including seven in his last 31 starts on the PGA Tour, he moved to No. 3 in the world. He is one spot ahead of longtime friend Jordan Spieth for the first time, which was of little significance to Thomas.

“Not really,” he said. “Because there’s still two more spots that I want to climb.’

List, going for his first PGA Tour victory, shot 32 on the back nine and closed with a 69. His only regret was a tee shot wide right in the playoff that landed amid palm trees and left him little options. He went left against the bleachers, and hit a superb approach to about 25 feet and two-putted for par.



“Obviously, it hurts right now,” List said. “But I think that when I look back on it, I’ll be proud of the way I hung in there.”

Alex Noren (67) finished third. He was tied for the lead when he went for the green on the 18th, only for the ball to hit hung up on the side of the collar of a bunker, leaving him a tough chip. He missed a birdie chance from 20 feet.

Tiger Woods was briefly within three shots of the lead on the front nine. He closed with a 70 and finished 12th.

The 5-wood turned out to be the winner for Thomas. The wedge made it possible.

Jack Nicklaus was in the broadcast booth for most of the final round, leaving before Thomas and List reached the 18th hole. It might have all looked familiar to Nicklaus, the U.S. captain of the 1983 Ryder Cup at PGA National. The big moment that year was Lanny Wadkins nearly jarring a wedge on the 18th hole, a shot so meaningful to the outcome that Nicklaus kissed the divot.

Thomas missed the 18th fairway in regulation and had no choice but to lay up. List followed with his 4-iron to 35 feet.

“I have a lot of confidence in my wedge game,” Thomas said. “I knew if I got a decent number that I was going to be able to get inside 10 feet. That’s all I wanted was a chance to try to get into a playoff. And then ended up hitting a great wedge.”

Thomas and List finished at 8-under 272. It was the seventh playoff in 15 PGA Tour events this season.

Woods made that Sunday red shirt look a little brighter, at least for a while. With an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth hole, he momentarily pulled within three shots of the lead. That only lasted the few minutes that it took Thomas to tap in for birdie on the par-5 third.


Woods made bogey to close out his front nine, and he still was four shots behind until getting swallowed up again by the water-filled closing stretch. He put his tee shot into water and made double bogey for the second straight day, three-putted the 16th for bogey and was out of hope.

“I made a big leap this week because I really hit it well,” Woods said. “I was able to control it, especially in this wind, which is not easy to do.”

Woods led the field in proximity to the hole on his approach shots at just over 29 feet.

Not to be overlooked was Sam Burns of LSU, who last year won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top college player who received a sponsor exemption. Playing alongside Woods in such a chaotic arena, he was bogey-free for a 68 to tie for eighth. That will get him into the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in two weeks.

Five players had at least a share of the lead. Only three of them stuck around until the end.

Webb Simpson missed the fairway on the 11th hole and had to lay up instead of taking on the water. That led to the first of three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and sent him to a 72, four shots behind. Tommy Fleetwood was tied for the lead until a three-putt bogey from long range on the 14th, and a bogey from the back bunker on the 15th. A birdie on the final hole for a 69 left him two shots behind.


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WATCH: Billy Hurley III releases hilarious campaign video against Jordan Spieth


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It was a quiet race for Chairman of the PGA Tour Advisory Council. That was until Billy Hurley III made a late splash this week.

Hurley III was going up against Jordan Spieth, Golden Child and no. 3 golfer in the world. It was tough competition, and with just one day left for Tour players to vote, he turned to a classic campaign strategy: mudslinging.

Hurley III released a video pinpointing all of Spieth’s flaws, from him being an elite, “one percenter” golfer, to the ways in which he treats his caddie Michael Greller. Beyond that, Hurley III called attention to his own military history.

The video swept across PGA Tour circles Monday, with many players tweeting it out saying Hurley III had captured their vote. Why? Well, because the video is hilarious and you’d need to watch it for yourself. The impact of the video was so great that Jordan Spieth himself even admitted he would vote for Hurley III.



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