Scottie Schleffer had a walk on the shore and navigated four consecutive rounds in the 60’s to take home a huge pile of cash for Christmas presents at the Hero Challenge at the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas. The event is not a PGA Tour sanctioned tournament and was organized by the Tiger Woods foundation as a get together by invitation for achievements by the players who have won majors in the current year as well as past winners of the event. The biggest headline for this event turned out to be anything but golf on the course. Schleffer won rather handily with no one able to catch him as the tournament had about as much excitement as a 7 day cricket match with the accompanying naps. It was akin to watching paint dry on a humid August afternoon in South Carolina. The Albany course seems to be more of the resort variety with plenty of fairway, plenty of beach sand and a smidge of Bermuda rough, which poses no problems for these players. Therefore the tournament turned out to be a putting and chipping contest, and Schleffer was not going to be beaten on this particular week.
The first highlight was Tiger Woods playing in the field and getting through the 72 holes. Tiger seems to have a different body that the Tiger before the car accident in Southern California. He seems to be in fantastic shape but seems to have added upper body weight and strength and he looks like Barry Bonds without the …..oids. His swing seems a little different relying more on the upper and middle body perhaps to take the pressure off the hips and the legs. I could be very wrong about this, but the swing certainly looks different. Tiger finished the tournament 18th out of 20 but he hit a number of great shots and undoubtedly will regain some consistency if he is able to play more tournament golf. He seemed to be in and out of pain throughout the round but really didn’t complain about it publicly. We know that he has to go through phenomenal pain management and exercise to get ready for every round. Tiger is drove the ball over 300 yards throughout the event and has all the shots that he has demonstrated for years, but he doesn’t yet have the consistency he will need to compete with the guys at this level. Some of those drives found some tough places. In the first round, his tee shot on 15th was snared in a bush, and Tiger abruptly decided to try and hit it without taking an unplayable. He felt that the unplayable might put him in a worst position with the drop..he was only able to advance the ball a few feet before holing out for a double bogey. Before the event, Tiger’s world ranking was 1,328, which seems ludicrous but, of course, he hasn’t been playing.
The second major matter that occurred this week at the tournament was the two shot penalty leveled at Colin Morakawa, for his 3rd round play on the 4th hole, which was communicated to him by a PGA official as he was warming up for his final round start. It’s another one of golf’s esoteric rules that fortunately most of us will never even have the opportunity of breaking. It seems that the Lords of Golf decided that reading greens is a technique that requires careful management. It seems that tour players and caddies use devices that measure the slopes of the greens that they are about to play on. It seems that it is okay to obtain this information from electronic devices, it is not allowed to transfer that information from those devices to hand written notes that are then accumulated in the Tour Player’s yardage book. Did you get all that? How is your green slope information stored in your golf bag?? Matt Fitzpatrick observed Morikawa accessing this information on the 4th green in the 3rd round and decided to bring it up with a PGA rules official. Matt wasn’t sure of the rule and would have liked to use the technique himself, but it has been judged to be illegal. (inane in my view) Morikawa was perplexed to say the least and moved on to complete the tournament as the distraction clearly impacted his play. This rule came into effect in 2022 due to the use of electronic devices to measure green slopes became in vogue with tour players. The game of golf is hard enough as it is and I suspect that the Tour Professional should be attending a “Q” school for green-reading.
As if the green reading decision isn’t enough, this week rumors are swirling throughout the golf world that the “golf ball rollback” rule will be promulgated soon. The golf rollback rule will force the golf ball manufacturers to dumb down the golf ball ending the everyday 300 yard drive. Once thought that the rule would apply only to professionals and elite amateurs (who knows what elite amateur means?), it is now thought that the rollback rule will apply to all golfers. I guess I’ll be moving up to the geezer tees after this rule but perhaps it won’t go into effect for awhile. I don’t know how the Lords of Golf are going to compensate the manufacturers for the tooling and adoption changes that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. What about all of the golf balls that are currently in circulation–probably billions–do we throw all of those away? This proposal is one of the dumbest things on the golfing planet–even worse than the proposed PGA/LIV merger. The players that hit it a long way will still hit it a long way and will have little to no impact on the competitiveness of the professional tours. It will also not impact the elite amateur player in a similar way as the professional. It will negatively impact the rest of us, who will lose yardage that all of us are trying to gain today. What is that old adage? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–this rule with a new “dumber” ball will make the game more difficult than it already is and probably further degrade pace of play. Enough already!