PGA – THE “GENTLEMEN’S GAME” IS OUTDATED

One major takeaway for me from the 2013 Masters is just how outdated the “Gentlemen’s Game” of golf is in this era of close scrutiny.

It all started on Friday during Tiger Woods’ second round when his approach shot to hole 15 hit the flagstick and careened into the water below.  He took a drop and made bogey 6, then went on to finish the day with a modest 71.

But, then all hell broke loose on Saturday.

Apparently, a TV viewer called Masters Officials on Friday after Woods’ drop on 15 to report that it was illegal.  Overnight, the officials took the matter into consideration and on Saturday, they announced a decision would soon be made as to Woods’ fate.

In the meantime, this story exploded in the media.

Some were calling for Woods to disqualify himself because he allegedly admitted in an interview that he knowingly took the illegal drop in a better area to be more advantageous to him.  Thus, that would mean he scored his card incorrectly and should be disqualified.

Eventually, Woods would be assessed a two-shot penalty because Officials deemed that he dropped his ball in an improper location. Disqualification was never discussed.  Cased closed.

Or, was it?

The mass hysteria over this issue weighted so heavily on Woods that it became a distraction to him as a player and probably cost him his fifth green jacket.  It also put a bit of a black cloud over the event the rest of the weekend because Tiger, the world’s most popular player by far, lost two shots for the penalty, and was rattled by the events that occurred.

First, I assess this debacle with a bad feeling in my mouth over the fact that outside viewers are able to call in to officials of golf tournaments and rat on players like jilted classmates to the school Principal.

It’s ridiculous, embarrassing, and should never be allowed to happen.  In fact, do you know of any other sport where audience members who have absolutely nothing to do with an athlete, team, sport, or the event are allowed to voice their opinion over if a play is legal or not and actually effect the outcome?

I can’t, thank goodness.

But, because golf is a considered a “Gentlemen’s Game”, where it is a sport of integrity and players are expected to enforce their own penalties as they happen, and report on their own score, viewers will continue to have an effect at golf tournaments in which officials do not walk with every group.

I say this part of golf needs to go.

Further, to avoid the embarrassment of Tiger’s hole 15 debacle in the future, players should not have to police themselves anymore.

What should happen in golf is that every grouping should be escorted by a PGA Rules Official who oversees the players and every shot they make.  If a violation occurs, it should be monitored and dealt with by Officials at the time of the infraction, not after.  This would take the onus off the players and would make PGA events run more smoothly and efficiently.  (Currently, three majors (except the Masters) do have Rules Officials assigned to every group.  But, it should be expanded to every tournament.)

Like an umpire in the MLB, or referee in the NFL, officials are on the field to monitor the fairness of the game, protect the players, and to enforce the rules.

In fact, can you imagine the NFL without referees to police the players?  We almost witnessed a complete meltdown of the league this past year when the full-time refs went on strike and “replacement” officials took charge.  It became very clear that officials are vital to the games running smoothly, fairly, and efficiently.

Yet, in golf, players do not have the protection of Officials outside of three majors.  What they do have are “Marshalls” who are on the golf course to simply patrol the course, keep the pace of the play up, and respond to player’s questions if they have them.  The players, themselves, are expected to know the rules and if they stray from them in the least bit, they are considered bad people and ratted out for it.  Thus, the debacle of Tiger and hole 15.

I say we need to put an end to this right now.  The onus of the rules and violations of golf should not be put squarely on the players.  It seems outdated and unrealistic to continue with this tradition in golf, particularly when people from every part of the globe have access to the game in real time and can call in and point out a possible infraction(s).

Who knows?  If my suggested rules were in place before this past week’s 2013 Masters, Tiger Woods may have taken the right drop as officiated properly on the field, he wouldn’t have had to deal with the aftermath of the hole 15 debacle, and he may be holding his fifth green jacket right now.

 

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