Professional golf has to be one of the greatest fan friendly sports on the planet. Where else can you sit in your “Man Cave”, watch a player break the rules, and have the ability to call that violation into the tournament officials? Can you imagine calling your opinion in to the NFL because you saw pass interference that wasn’t flagged on the field, have the ref blow the whistle and make a ruling based on your opinion of the play? I don’t think so. But in golf, you can do just that, and have an impact on the outcome.
I personally think the process is a little unfair at times, and am a firm believer that what is good for the goose, is also fair for the gander. A couple of points:
The camera’s are not on everyone all of the time. Tiger Woods has been involved in three “controversial calls” this season, and I have to think he was flagged because more cameras are on him than anyone else on the course.
No one cares if Brian Gay steps into the woods at the Sony Open, and his ball moves or oscillates. There probably wasn’t a camera in the area anyway. But if Dustin Johnson grounds his club in one of the 204 questionable bunkers at Whistling Straits during the final round of the PGA Championship, there are a minimum of three cameras in the area to catch the mistake.
That makes the ruling unfair to Dustin Johnson because if he was tied for 64th place and the infraction occurred on Saturday afternoon, no one would have seen it, because it would not have been televised.
The second problem I have with the process, is that if a player doesn’t realize he made a rules violation, and signs his score card, someone can review the video and determine an error was made, now the player gets another two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect score card that he didn’t know was incorrect at the time he signed it.
Michael Buteau at Bloomberg.com posted a story on Tuesday that indicates the PGA Tour, and Commissioner Tim Finchem are taking a look at this situation in lieu of the latest incident involving Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship. [ref: PGA Tour to Discuss Ban on Player Penalties Called in by Viewers ].
“We’ve been talking about it and looking at it over the years,” Finchem said at a news conference today in Atlanta, site of the season-ending Tour Championship. “We seem to have had three or four of these things this year. So we’ll probably be taking another harder look at it after we get done with the season.”
I think the PGA should take a look at the process, and maybe make some adjustments. As a fan, I like having the ability to affect the outcome of a tournament, but in all fairness to the player, there needs to be a time limit on the incident. After all, this is the livelihood for these players, and the difference between finishing tied for fourth place, and tied for 54th place can mean the difference between retaining, or loosing a tour card.
Most of the time, players will gladly call an infraction on themselves if they realize they have violated the rules. But like many professional sports, the rule book in golf is very detailed, and can at times be complicated. And golf, unlike other sports, there is not an official with every group, so the players are tasked with policing themselves, and each other in a group. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
To solve some of these problems, during major tournaments and playoff events like the FedEx Cup playoffs, there needs to be an official with each group. This would solve some of the problems, and bring the errors to the forefront before a player signs an incorrect card only to pick up two more strokes.
A discussion on Morning Drive this morning even had the PGA putting a rules official in the video truck. He could monitor the videos, and call infractions out to the officials on the course. I’m for any ruling that puts a deadline on calling the infraction. At some point, the player needs to know he has the correct number on his scorecard.