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Golf notebook: Extra-club penalty dooms Austin

The SportsXchange

--It was another bizarre incident involving Woody Austin.

The 49-year-old veteran, who has won four times on the PGA Tour, including the Sanderson Farms Championship last month, received a four-stroke penalty in the PGA Championship because he had 15 clubs in his bag, one more than allowed, for the first two holes of the second round.

With those strokes tacked on, two for each hole he played with an extra club, Austin shot 69-75--144 at Oak Hill and missed the cut by one stroke.

Austin forgot to take a 21-degree hybrid club out of his bag and didn't notice it until the third tee because caddie Dave Lawson had the clubs covered since it was raining when the round began.

"It's not his fault; it's my fault as much as his fault," said Austin, who was Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour in 1995. "It's both our jobs. It's just one of those things, if it wasn't raining, we would have caught it. But you've got the rain cover over everything and you're worrying about the towels and whatever, so you don't see it.

"But if we would have been on the first tee on a normal day, clubs sitting there, you would have seen it. It's such a bulky club, you wouldn't have missed it. It doesn't have a head cover on it or anything. We would have caught it immediately. But the fact that you have got your clubs completely covered, I never saw it until I dug in there for the 3-iron on No. 3, and there it was."

Despite a very respectable 18-year career on the PGA Tour, Austin is most well-known for two rather comical incidents.

In the 1997 Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, Austin was so upset by a poor putt that he whacked himself on the head several times with the putter, using so much force that it bent the club.

During the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal, Austin waded into a lake to hit a shot after his ball stopped barely outside the water. After hitting the shot, he lost his balance and fell back into the water, actually going under.

At least he put his rain suit on before going in.

After this latest incident, there are a lot of people chalking it up to simply Woody being Woody.

--With three years remaining before golf returns to the Olympic Games for the first time since 2004, one thing is certain: There will be scheduling problems.

The Games are scheduled for Aug. 5-21, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro. July and August of 2016 promise to be a pretty busy month of golf, especially when it comes to the PGA Tour.

As usual, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship at Baltusrol also are scheduled for August, with the Open Championship held in middle to late July, but some of those dates could change.

"We haven't set a (PGA Championship) date yet for 2016, but I doubt very seriously that it would be after Labor Day," President Ted Bishop of the PGA of America said on the Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" show.

"I would think that what you're going to see in 2016 probably would be a sliding forward of the majors. ... the PGA Championship would probably take place sometime in late July, a couple of weeks after the Open Championship. ...

"Everything is going to be shifted, everything, possibly the Open Championship and the PGA Championship in 2016, to accommodate the Olympic schedule."

The timing between the third and fourth majors of the season always is tight, and this year the first round of the PGA at Oak Hill was played only 18 days after the Open finished at Muirfield.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has indicated that the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone probably would remain in its slot at the beginning of August in 2016.

"On the Olympic year, we just haven't quite finished sorting out the run in mid-summer in those weeks," said Finchem, who played a big role in golf returning to the Olympics. "But it's not going to affect (the Bridgestone) because the World Golf Championships have to have priority positioning, and the date will reflect that as it relates to the PGA Championship and for the Olympic competition as well."

However, Finchem added that nothing is set in stone.

--Ye Wocheng, the 12-year-old who earlier this year became the youngest player in the history of the Volvo China Open at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin, China, will play next month in the Omega European Masters.

The tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Asian Tour, will be played Sept. 5-8 at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

It is the only tournament on European soil jointly sanctioned by those two bodies.

Ye's record-setting appearance in China came only weeks after Guan Tianlang, 14, also of China, made history by becoming the youngest player in the history of the Masters.

In the Volvo China Open, Ye shot 79-79--158 and missed the cut by 14 strokes.

"His potential is limitless," said David Watson of England, who played on the European Tour and is Ye's instructor. "He could be in the category of Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods.

"He has already started to break records. There is no reason why he can't break more records. He is ahead of his years, but I am not really surprised because he works so hard."

Ye has twice claimed championships in the Junior World Championships in San Diego and broke Tiger Woods' tournament record with a winning score of 12 under par.

--Pine Valley Golf Club was selected as the best course in the United States and the world by Golf magazine for the 15th consecutive year.

Located in Clementon, N.J., Pine Valley finished ahead of Cypress Point Golf Club in Pebble Beach, Calif., and Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on both lists, with the Old Course at St. Andrews finishing fourth on the world list.

"What we do is, we have experts who help us," said Joe Passov, Golf magazine's course rankings editor. "We have 100 people around the world on a panel who are so experienced at traveling the world and playing great golf courses that we let them make up their minds for themselves."

Rounding out the top 10 on the U.S. list are Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.; Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.; the East Course at Merion Golf Club in Merion, Pa.; Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.; the West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.; Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Neb.; and Fishers Island Club in Fishers Island, N.Y.

The rest of the world top 10 are Shinnecock Hills; Royal County Down Golf Club in Newcastle, Northern Ireland; Pebble Beach; Oakmont; the East Course at Merion, and Muirfield Golf Club in Gullane, Scotland.

--Richard Sterne of South Africa became the fourth player this season to earn an invitation for special temporary membership status on the PGA Tour for the rest of this season.

Sterne, who has won six times on the European Tour, tied for ninth in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, increasing his 2013 earnings on the PGA Tour to $483,758 in six starts.

That was more than the No. 150 spot on last year's money list and earned the special membership.

Last week, Sterne missed a chance to wrap up his 2014 playing card when he shot 72-74- 146 and missed the cut by three strokes in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Sterne, who captured the Joburg Open earlier this year in Johannesburg, has until the Wyndham Championship this week to earn his 2013-14 card through the non-member money list or the non-member FedEx Cup points list.

Earlier this season, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain joined the PGA Tour as special temporary members, and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan received a similar invitation.

--The PGA Tour will adjust its schedule in 2014 at the request of Tom Watson, captain of the United States Ryder Cup team, who wants his players to have a week off before the event at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland.

The complete 2013-14 schedule will be officially announced next month, and PGA of America president Ted Bishop said tour officials have agreed to stage all four of the FedEx Cup playoff events in consecutive weeks to give players a break before the Ryder Cup.

"Our captain felt like it was imperative that our players had a week off prior to the beginning of the Ryder Cup," Bishop said. "I think it was a change that was good for them, and obviously the week off prior to the Ryder Cup hopefully will be good for our players."

The Ryder Cup is scheduled for Sept. 26-28, 2014, and without the schedule change it would have been played the week after the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

In recent years, the players have had a week off during the PGA Tour playoffs, with it coming this year after the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship, before the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship.

--In a shocking announcement, the United States Golf Association said it has signed a 12-year contract with Fox Sports to telecast the United States Open and other USGA championships, ending its partnership with NBC Sports.

NBC, with top analyst Johnny Miller, has televised the U.S. Open since 1995 at Shinnecock Hills.

According to Golfweek, Fox offered the analyst position in its golf broadcast team to Greg Norman, former No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings and a winner of two major championships.

Norman reportedly received the offer in an email from his friend David Hill, senior executive vice president at News Corp and former CEO of Fox Sports Media Group. Norman told Hill that he is very interested in the job and requested a face-to-face meeting.

"I need to talk with David and see if it will work for me," Norman told Golfweek. "One, I need to understand the time requirements and two, the expectations."

In 2005, before offering the job to Nick Faldo, CBS offered its lead analyst role to Norman, who declined because it would have required too much travel, but the Fox position offers a much more limited schedule.

The first U.S. Open for Fox will be from in June 2015 from Chambers Bay outside Seattle. NBC will telecast the event next June from Pinehurst No. 2, and the U.S. Women's Open will be played on the Donald Ross classic course the following week.

Terms of the new agreement with Fox were not disclosed.

"This is an exciting and remarkable day for the USGA, as our partnership with the Fox Sports is a game-changer for our organization and for the game of golf," USGA president Glen Nager said in a statement.

"The game is evolving and requires bold and unique approaches on many levels, and Fox shares our vision to seek fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. This partnership will help us to better lead and serve the game in new and exciting ways."

Fox Sports will present 146 hours of USGA golf. That includes at least 70 hours of its three biggest events -- the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open.

Some amateur events, including the U.S. Amateur and the new U.S. National Four-ball Championships, also will be televised by Fox.

Fox did not say which announcers would make up its broadcast team, and Miller said it is unlikely he would go to Fox if offered a chance, even though his NBC contract expires at the end of 2015.
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