Thursday, January 27, 2011

GOLF NEEDS TO POLICE THEIR OWN: special commentary from Beaver in Sterling

Over the course of the last few weeks, PGA and European Tour officials received phone calls/emails from viewers explaining how players had violated the rules. A not so uncommon phenomenon, which most famously came to light back in 1987 courtesy of The Walrus, Craig Stadler, who placed a towel under his knees so his pants wouldn't get wet, while playing a shot from under a tree. Ironically enough, it happened at the site of this week's event at Torrey Pines.

The players involved more recently were Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington. The rule that Camilo violated was rule 23-1 which states "When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed."

In Layman's terms, Camilo Villegas moved a divot out of the path of his ball which was rolling back down the hill towards him. The infraction is a two shot penalty, but since the infraction was not brought to the attention of both Camilo and rules officials until after play was completed, and Camilo had already signed his scorecard, he was DQ'ed for signing an incorrect scorecard.

In Harrington's case, he was disqualified after failing to place his ball back to its original spot, after it moved slightly when he picked up his marker. Some "TV snitches", as Ian Poulter put it, e-mailed officials at the tournament notifying them of the infraction, and like Villegas, since Harrington had already signed an "incorrect" card, he was DQ'd.

Golf is a gentleman's game, where we as players play by the rules and call penalties on ourselves for rules we have violated. Case in point would be the 2010 Verizon Hertiage where Brian Davis was in a playoff with Jim Furyk, and his ball was in a hazard and he called a penalty on himself. The infraction cost him a shot at winning the tournament. You don't see that type of policing in any other sport.

Do you see Kobe or Lebron calling traveling on themselves? Does Revis Island or D-Hall call pass interference on themselves? When was the last time Ryan Zimmerman refused first base because even though "blue" thought that last pitch was a ball, RZ felt it caught the corner, and therefore was strike three? Never. Its part of what makes golf unique.

Technology, specifically HDTV, is forcing golf's hand. And the powers that be need to address their "problem". Its not the job of drunk, fat slobs who are sitting at home watching golf, to be the ones policing professional golfers. Its the job of the drunk, fat slobs on the course (rules officials) to be doing this.

And on the heels of two incidents in 3 weeks, and the embarrassment that was last year's PGA Championship, in which PGA Tour officials allowed fans to reside in a fairway bunker all week, to the point that by Sunday it resembled the infield at Fenway Park, the Tours need to put more (proactive) officials on the course.

Secondly, and this has been suggested by Paul Casey, among others, if the Tours are going to continue to allow Johnny Golf Fan to call or email rules violations in after the fact, the Tours should implement a rule that allows for a score to be adjusted, for golfers who have already finished their round and signed their card.

Lastly, the idea itself, of allowing fans to police golfers from the reclyner in their man cave, is not fair to all players. What do we mean by not fair?

Tournament leaders and "huge draw" players that the fans want to see play- Tiger, Phil, Daly(when he's in the field), are going to garner more TV time than no name players in the field. Which brings us back to our suggested solution, that the Tours need more, proactive officials following EVERY group.

Hypothetically speaking, a rules infraction that Josh Anderson, Chris Baryla, or Jim Renner (players all in the field for this week's tournament at Torrey Pines) commits on Thursday, while practically no galleries are following them, let alone Golf Channel or CBS' cameras, is no different than a rule that (hypothetically) Tiger or Phil might commit during Sunday's final round, with all eyes on them.

Beaver from Sterling is a 4 handicap. You'll sometimes hear him calling into the Junkies, picking Lurch's brain about golf and other stuff. Beaver likes chicks and beer.

Follow on twitter@sportsyack

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