Monday, June 3, 2013

Golf's Longest Day - Highlights and Notes

As we near the end of what has been dubbed “Golf’s Longest Day” there were several incidents worth noting.  I want to go over some of the basics in what occurred and clear up some misconceptions.


            Yes, everyone heard correctly that not only is a two-time U.S. Open Champion not exempt into the championship, but he was also disqualified after the first round of Sectional Qualifying.  What Rule did he break?  Well, he didn’t break a Rule, he failed to comply with a Condition of the Competition the penalty for which was disqualification.
            Like many tour professionals, Lee Janzen still uses metal spikes.  Phil Mickelson is known to use them frequently, and even Tiger Woods on occasion as well as many others.  At three of today’s sectional qualifying sites, traditional metal spikes are permitted.  The reason for this difference is that the three sites are typically filled by a majority of tour players.  Lee Janzen was playing at Rockville, Maryland, where spikes were not permitted.
            On the initial entry form as well as in an email and as a posted notice to players, the following condition is listed:

It is a condition at all qualifying sites unless otherwise indicated by an asterisk on this entry application that shoes with traditionally-designed spikes (regardless of composition, i.e., ceramic, plastic, etc.) or spikes, regardless of design, com- prised either entirely or partially of metal (if such metal may come in contact with the course) are prohibited during the stipulated round. Penalty for breach of this condition: DISQUALIFICATION.

Much like Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits, there is no excuse here.  To his credit, Janzen reacted well to the DQ, citing the condition of his game and his score as the real problem.
            To other officials who run or will run Sectional Qualifying in the future: just in case, remind your starters to check player’s shoes or to listen for the clicking sound of metal spikes.
            I want to praise the Middle Atlantic Golf Association’s Michael Cumberpatch for his interview with Kay Cockerill and his responses. He correctly reminds us that it is the player’s responsibility to know the Conditions of the Competition and that his starters remind players about specific items on the tee, including Conditions of the Competition. Most importantly he reminded us that the Condition is not necessarily about the playing of the game. These courses donate their facilities each and every year and they do not want metal spikes in their clubhouse or on their greens and have every right to ask for this Condition. It can’t be said enough, it is the player’s responsibility to know the Conditions of the Competition.
           Just think, would you have any sympathy for a player if, after hitting the ball well-right on a hole arrives at the out of bounds stake and says, “Well I didn’t know this out of bounds was here, some one should have told me,” or, “Why didn’t the starter remind me that I had 15 clubs in the bag?” I don’t think so.

Spot Adjustments

            An extra spot was given out today thanks to the withdrawal of exempt player Richard Sterne.  The extra spot went Jim Herman at the Purchase, NY site.  A great question for someone tuning into “Golf’s Longest Day” for the first time is how does the extra spot become allocated?
            The explanation is more complicated than the common sense behind the formulae: It goes to site that would have received it had the spot been available.  The process for determining a “Spot Sheet” or a “One-for-Every” is quite statistical and spots are not awarded arbitrarily.  The USGA determines the spots using a formula that ranks the strength of the fields based on both player ranking and field size and allotting the spots accordingly.  I am not privy to that formula, or how heavily World Amateur Golf Rankings are weighted against professional World Golf Rankings, but I can provide a general understanding based off a strictly field-size based “Spot Sheet.”
            For NCGA Championships, for example, we determine our spots proportionally: The spots for a site are to the site field size as the total amount of spots available is to the total amount of players attempting to qualify.  For example – There are 60 spots available altogether, and 600 total players.  Your qualifying site has 60 players, how many spots do you get?  Well, 60 spots are 10% of 600, so you’re going to get 10% of 60 players.  You get 6 spots.
            At last year’s Sectional Qualifying, I was in charge of the second course for the Northern California area site and we were informed the evening prior to the event that we had an additional spot available thanks to a late exempt player withdrawal.  This is a regular occurrence at every Sectional and alternates will continue to get in all the way up to the start of the championship because of injuries and late withdrawals.
            At this point the “One-for-Every” becomes an alternate’s best friend or worst enemy.  When a Sectional Qualifier withdraws, alternates from the site itself are first in line.  But if both alternates get in and the site continues to have withdrawals, then the “One-for-Every” comes back into play to determine which site’s alternate is next in.  Because Purchase, NY was awarded an additional spot, it will move to last on the “One-for-Every” list.  As an alternate, your chances of getting into the open could very easily hinge upon your site’s spot on the “One-for-Every.”

Ball Unplayable

            Brandon Matthews may be at the wrong end of the “One-for-Every” but he earned the chance to be on it with an incredible pitch and a wise use of Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.
            On the 36th hole of Sectional Qualifying at Century Country Club in Purhcase, New York, Matthews found himself settled in some tree roots.  After contemplating the risks of attempting to play the shot, he invoked the unplayable ball Rule and took penalized relief.  He chose Rule 28c, and under penalty of one-stroke he dropped the ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lay in the roots no nearer the hole.  His first drop bounced closer to the hole.  His re-drop bounced closer to the hole and he was then required to place the ball on the spot where the re-drop first struck the course.  Then, he chipped in. 
            It was a remarkable shot and at the time it kept him inside the cut-line.  Unfortunately for Matthews, it did not stay that way and he is currently the 1st Alternate anxiously awaiting a phone call from the USGA.

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