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How adaptive golf unlocks the game for many with disabilities

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PGA Professional Championship to return to Bayonet Black Horse Courses in 2018

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Joaquin Niemann claims gold jacket at Junior Invitational at Sage Valley

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New decision leaves many LPGA pros unsatisfied

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IRVING, Texas – The new Rules of Golf decision limiting video evidence left a lot of LPGA pros scratching their heads.

They walked away from Tuesday’s news unsure how the USGA and R&A’s new standards will be applied to rules infractions discovered via video and whether this new decision would have helped Lexi Thompson avoid the penalties that derailed her bid to win the ANA Inspiration three weeks ago.

“There’s more gray area than clear definition,” two-time major champion Stacy Lewis said. “It didn’t really clarify anything.”

While some LPGA pros are already referring to Decision 34-3/10 as “The Lexi Rule,” USGA and R&A leaders insist that’s not the case, that the new decision was already a work in progress. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said the rule simply got “fast tracked” after the Thompson controversy.

Still, LPGA pros were immediately trying to figure out how the new decision would have been applied to Thompson at the ANA if it were in effect at the time.

“I don’t think it changes Lexi’s ruling at all,” Lewis said. “It probably changes Anna’s.”

That would be Anna Nordqvist.

Thompson was penalized four shots in the final round of the ANA Inspiration after a TV viewer emailed in to report a possible infraction. She was penalized two shots for incorrectly marking her ball on the 17th green on Saturday and two more for signing an incorrect scorecard after that round.

Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff last summer after she was penalized two shots for grazing a few grains of sand taking back a 5-iron in a fairway bunker during a playoff. The violation was spotted in high definition video replay. She lost the playoff to Brittany Lang.

Basically, Decision 34-3/10 limits video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

Nordqvist clearly fits the standard for relief created in the new decision, and expressed her satisfaction with the new rule as it relates to her.

“I am happy with the USGA and R&A Rules Decision regarding infractions that cannot be reasonably seen with the naked eye,” she wrote in a message posted to Instagram. “After my experience last year at the U.S. Women’s Open at Cordevalle, I know firsthand the impact that the advancements in technology can have on potential rulings. As I said following the round I made a mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. I am happy that going forward this will no longer be an issue. I will be making no further comments on this new decision. Thank you for your understanding.”

As for Thompson? In order for her to have avoided the penalties under this new decision, the championship rules committee would have had to determine that her mismarking wasn’t visible to the naked eye, or that she showed “reasonable judgment” moving her ball back to its mark.

While Lewis said she believes Thompson should have won the championship, she wasn’t completely certain how “reasonable judgment” would be applied.

“I just think it was so clear,” Lewis said. “Yeah, you had to zoom in on it. It’s pretty clear what happened.”

Lewis wasn’t saying she believed Thompson intentionally returned the ball to a wrong spot, only that it was clear she didn’t return it correctly.

“I don’t think she purposely tried to move her ball,” Lewis said. “I’ve never seen her do that.”

Lewis has more of an issue with the two-shot penalty Thompson got for signing an incorrect scorecard, because Thompson didn’t know her scorecard was incorrect. Lewis also believes the USGA should implement a rule that would “close out” a round and make scores official once the following round begins. If that had been the case, Thompson wouldn’t have been penalized at all.

“I still think she won that golf tournament by four shots,” Lewis said. “I hope she thinks that too.”

Catriona Matthew also wasn’t sure a rules committee would grant Thompson relief, with a TV viewer apparently seeing the infraction with the naked eye and with “reasonable judgment” not a certainty in how a committee viewed her marking of the ball.

“She clearly moved the ball,” Matthew said. “Some people are then going to argue, ‘How much should you move it for it to be a penalty?’”

Whan said the LPGA rules staff hasn’t gone back to review how Thompson’s infractions could have been treated under the new standards. He’s respectful of the champion, So Yeon Ryu.

“Could we have had a different outcome, I don’t know if it does any good to assess that now,” Whan said.

Like Lewis, Matthew sees the new decision creating a gray area that’s going to land in the laps of local rules committees.

“I think it muddies the water even more,” Matthew said. “That puts the rules officials in a much harder position. What do they call a judgment call?”

If Matthew had her way, viewers wouldn’t be able to call in violations, which would have spared Thompson the penalties.

“I don’t think you should be able to phone in after the fact,” Matthew said.

With the release of Decision 34-3/10, the USGA and R&A announced they are immediately beginning a “comprehensive review of broader video issues” within televised competition, including viewer call-ins.

That can’t happen fast enough for most LPGA pros.

“I think everyone understood the two-shot penalty [for the mark], but not the scorecard,” reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ Brittany Lang told Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott in a Golf Central interview. “My opinion is they have to do away with call-ins.”

How strong is Lang’s opinion on that?

“I think if you are going to call in, they ought to put your picture and your information on TV, just to show who is doing this and why you did it,” Lang said

More than one LPGA pro wished the USGA and R&A would have gone further on Tuesday, or more strongly committed to going further.

“I don’t feel like this is going to help,” Angela Stanford said. “It looks like the USGA and R&A are making an effort, but I wish they would just address the big question everyone is asking: Why allow people to call in at all? Or, if you are going to let people call in, why can’t you stop it at the end of the day? In my opinion, it means you must want that to continue.”

Count Mo Martin among those who want viewer call-ins to end.

“In my opinion, nobody has been caught flagrantly cheating,” Martin said. “I don’t think Lexi or Anna got an advantage. This is about tiny grains of sands and a ball maybe being moved a quarter-inch.

“The bigger issues are do we allow call-ins? And I hope that’s going to be addressed.”

Whan is optimistic those solutions are coming with the LPGA, PGA Tour, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America joining the USGA and R&A in a comprehensive review of the broader video issues.

“I love the fact they are building a team to do that, and they are taking input from all different tours.” Whan said. “I feel like whatever decision comes out of that, it will be the right one. I’m enthusiastic they moved so quickly on what they did, and I really like the process for going forward.”

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Smylie Kaufman visits the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, shows off some serious range

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Smylie Kaufman visits the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, shows off some serious range on the basketball court

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7 famous recent rules controversies — and how the new “Lexi Thompson” rule would have affected them

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7 famous recent rules controversies — and how the new “Lexi Thompson” rule would have affected them

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Watch: Zurich partners play 'The Newlywed Game'

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With this year’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans a two-man team event for the first time, golf fans will be treated to some interesting interactions between players they don’t normally get to see on a weekly basis.

Whether they’re good friends, brothers, or guys who barely know each other, they’re going to have to figure out how to work together in order to get in the mix.

But before things get serious, the PGA Tour sat down a few of the teams to have some fun, by playing a condensed version of “The Newlywed Game.”

If the results of the game are any indication, we should be in for some ride this week in New Orleans.

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You Oughta Know: Key numbers for new Zurich format

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The Zurich Classic has a new format and plenty of big names in the field. Here’s what You Oughta Know heading into the team event.

• Field consists of 80 teams of two players; cut is low 35 teams and ties

• Rounds 1 and 3: Alternate shot

• Rounds 2 and 4: Best ball

• First official team event on PGA Tour since 1981 Disney Classic

• Both members of winning team will be credited with official PGA Tour victory

• Both members of winning team receive exemptions into invitational tournaments

• Notable exemptions include The Players, PGA Championship and Tournament of Champions

• Winning team does not receive invitation into 2018 Masters Tournament

• Each of last seven rounds of this event have had weather suspension (2015-16)

• Tournament was shortened to 54 holes last year (Brian Stuard won Monday finish)

• 10 of 27 rounds in this tournament since 2010 have had weather suspensions

• 13 of top-30 ranked players in world in field (there were three in 2016 field)

• No points awarded this week in Official World Golf Ranking

• Both players receive two-year exemption

• Official FedExCup points and money awarded

• Notable teams

Jason Day/Rickie Fowler

Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer

Hideki Matsuyama/Hideto Tanihara

Branden Grace/Louis Oosthuizen

Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson

Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley

Brooks Koepka/Chase Koepka

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Roommates look to collect some hardware, Walker persists through illness, and Poulter ponders what's next

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Roommates look to collect some hardware, Walker persists through illness, and Poulter ponders what’s next

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Sergio, Padraig make peace at Rory's wedding

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A little bit of wedded bliss was all it took for Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia to bury the hatchet.

The former Ryder Cup teammates have had a somewhat rocky relationship, dating back to Harrington topping Garcia at both The Open in 2007 and the PGA Championship in 2008. Days after Garcia won his first major earlier this month at the Masters, Harrington went on Irish radio and called the Spaniard a “sore loser” after their two notable battles.

“He continued to be a very sore loser,” Harrington said. “But look, we say hello to each other every day we meet, but it’s through gritted teeth, there’s no doubt about it.”

Harrington and Garcia were both guests at Rory McIlroy’s wedding over the weekend, and the two quickly crossed paths once inside the gates of Ashford Castle in Ireland. According to an Irish Golf Desk report, the two men wasted little time in sorting out any lingering animosity.

“We have had a chat because clearly there was an elephant in the room about what I said,” Harrington said. “We have decided that we will look going forward at our similarities and the good in each other rather than any other way.”

Harrington seems like a probable European Ryder Cup captain at some point in the near future, though he may have a tough time edging Lee Westwood for the job in 2020 at Whistling Straits. But his chances at a future captaincy will likely be bolstered by support from Garcia, himself a Ryder Cup standout.

After a meeting of the minds at McIlroy’s wedding, Harrington termed his relationship with Garcia “the best it has ever been.”

“No matter what our relationship is, it’s still the Ryder Cup,” Harrington said. “We’ve always gotten over it for the Ryder Cup, and I think we are in a far better place than that now.”

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