Recent rulings at the Masters have given rise to great controversy.
Issues that should have long ago been erased are back in the minds of many.
First came the slow play penalty to Tianlang Guan, a 14-year-old from China. It is the only time in the 77 year history of the tournament such a penalty has been levied.
According to Mr. Fred Ridley, the Masters’ competition committee chairman, Guan’s threesome of Ben Crenshaw, Matteo Manassero and himself, fell behind the group in front on the 10th tee.
This prompted a warning by officials that the players in the group had to make an effort to close the gap. On the 12th hole, nothing had changed and the players were told they would be timed or, as they say, on the clock.
The situation was explained thoroughly to Guan and the other players. On 13, Guan was warned specifically he was playing too slowly. Finally, on 17 out came the red card, Guan’s score became one stroke higher when he was penalized.
The internet and phone lines lit up to a brilliant crimson due to the overload. Some said “Give the kid a break.” Some said “Once you tee off, you are only another contestant.” Some said “Why now and why him? We have far worse offenders?”
I do wonder if this is one way the Masters committee is governing by influence. Perhaps, they knew that Guan is a slow player and were waiting for him.
After all, they did use the European Tour’s chief referee, John Paramor, who has a reputation for being decisive and firm when imposing a penalty.
Furthermore, Billy Payne addressed the issue of slow play in his opening day new conference, saying the Masters Committee and Augusta National were working with other authoritative golf organizations to help improve the pace of play.
Guan had little chance of winning, has a huge public image with golfers and undoubtedly will impact the thinking of junior golfers around the world because he is a mega-star in China. He is the perfect vehicle to initiate a message.
The second fiasco involved Tiger Woods.
By now, every person in the world, golfer or not, has an opinion about whether or not Tiger Woods should have been disqualified for turning in a wrong scorecard.
According to the rules of golf, the assessed penalties were sufficient, but controversy is Tiger’s first cousin. It follows him everywhere, beginning with massive contracts the day he turned professional as an unproven entity.
No doubt, he brings some of it on with comments like “I’m glad I won today, but I didn’t really have my A game” and with his personal life meltdown.
What I find fascinating is that I don’t recall one instance of a ruling controversy involving Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead or Arnold Palmer (I give you that Arnold had a plugged ball at the Masters but he played two balls and let the committee decide).
Regarding the ruling at the Masters, I think Tiger’s advisors missed one of the greatest marketing opportunities of a lifetime. His manager Mark Steinberg said recently that they are working on at least one more massive, international/global endorsement.
Is it possible that Tiger’s marketable image is so damaged that they might not find a big contract? Further, what if Tiger had appeared before a TV audience and announced that due to his actions and subsequent ruling that he didn’t feel very comfortable about the situation?
What if he said “Now that I know what I could have done differently, I think the most honourable thing for me to do is withdraw from the tournament. It is the right thing to do.”
His stock value would have gone through the roof.
Every Sunday, as I watch the PGA Tour, the network interviews the CEO of the sponsoring company and I hear them say “We at XXX are proud of our relationship with the PGA Tour. We think the image of the players and the integrity of the game aligns well with our company’s marketing objectives.
“We are pleased and proud to participate in this event raising money for local charities through the efforts of the PGA Tour and this championship.”
Tiger Woods may not have done anything wrong according to the rules but he certainly didn’t do much to enhance the legacy left to him by his predecessors, both for himself and the PGA Tour.