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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Governing bodies’ new decision limits video influence on golf rulings

Phil Mickelson marks his golf ball before a

Phil Mickelson marks his golf ball before a birdie putt on the second green during a practice round at the Masters golf tournament, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) Photo Credit: AP

Golf’s governing bodies this week made news that potentially could affect anyone, even people who never have picked up a club. The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club issued a decision limiting how much influence television viewers can have on competition.

“New Decision 34-3/10” came quickly in the aftermath of an another embarrassing episode earlier this month, when Lexi Thompson was penalized four shots at the LPGA’s first major of the season. The penalty arose after a viewer, having studied closeup slow-motion video of the way Thompson had marked her ball during her Saturday round, contacted the LPGA about the infraction on Sunday. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff.

The decision by the rules makers limits the use of video evidence, saying that it should not supersede a golfer’s “reasonable judgment,” nor should it apply to cases that would not be discernible to the “naked eye” without high-definition or slow-motion enhancement.

Doug Vergith, executive director of the Long Island Golf Association, predicted the decision would be well received by the public, which has decried the fact that big tournaments have been affected by people calling in technicalities after the fact. He did acknowledge, though, that golf purists will object to the fact that the governing bodies are being quickly reactionary rather than following the usual measured procedures.

He nonetheless feels strongly that the “naked eye” part of the decision is important after Anna Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open last year after high-definition, slow-motion video revealed she had touched a few grains of sand in a fairway bunker on her backswing, incurring a two-shot penalty. “There was no way she could have known that,” Vergith said, adding, “I think, in general, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Jeff Voorheis, executive director of the Metropolitan PGA, said the new decision “does not totally eliminate the use of video evidence or the acceptance of call-ins,” but by adding reasonable caveats, it makes the system more equitable. He pointed out that golfers in groups that are on TV are being held to a higher standard, which is not fair. And fairness, he said, “is perhaps the backbone of the Rules of Golf.”

Ask a Pro

Reader Andrew J. Carr of Lattingtown asked: “I know it’s important to have a calm and focused mind on a shot. However, distractions happen, especially in casual golf. How does one refocus his or her intention on hitting the target and `reset’?”

Anthony Cancro, PGA Director of Instruction at Tam O’Shanter Club in Brookville replied, “I believe the thing that separates better players is their ability to develop a solid repeatable pre-shot routine. Whether it is a competitive or casual round, the player can utilize this to re-focus and filter out distractions. It provides a safety net or calming effect. Another useful tool is making a smooth practice swing with your eyes closed while using mental imagery of a positive result. Most good players I work with see the good result before they hit it. Also, with your eyes closed, your focus now shifts to balance, rhythm and tempo — all components essential to a well struck golf shot.”

Other questions for local pros can be submitted to the email address listed with this column.

Chips shots

A small piece of an event being billed as the World’s Largest Golf Outing is coming to Long Island tomorrow. Pine Ridge Golf Course in Coram is participating in the national fundraiser for Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and Fisher House Foundation. Many Billy Casper Golf facilities across the country are participating in the outing, which has hosted 50,000 golfers and raised $3.5 million since its inception in 2011 . . . The USGA reports having accepted 9,485 entries for the U.S. Open, to be held June 15-18 at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Lance Richards, a pro from Saratoga Springs, Utah, was the 9,485th, filing 11 seconds before the deadline Wednesday. The Open returns to Shinnecock Hills in Southampton next year.

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