What do Tiger Woods, Paul Azinger, Craig Stadler, Dustin Johnson, Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wei and others all have in common?
They are victims of fans calling in to report a rules infraction and there are various opinions on this matter.
Most people either don’t understand how such a thing can take place or they support it. Few are somewhere in between, which includes me. I subscribe to the theory of let’s get it right.
I think the professional tours should take advantage of every source to obtain information that helps the eventual outcome to be as correct as possible. That’s the only way to ensure when the trophy is presented, it is presented to the correct player.
However, if I was the TV producer of a PGA Tour event and someone called-in with usable information, I would never tell anyone. My story would be “after video review, etc.”
I think allowing input from a variety of sources including fans, comes down to consistency. For example, a player hits a shot that crosses the line of a water hazard. Neither the player, the player’s playing partner/scorer or the caddie are absolutely certain about where the ball crossed the line.
They call for a rules official who considers information from TV crews, fans, bystanders and the players and their caddies as evidence. On rare occasions, the official might even accept input from other players who witnessed the situation, but are not playing in the group. Then, based on all input available, the official makes a determination.
It sounds simple enough, but not when you factor in that the ruling has to be as correct as possible to protect the final positioning of the player and every other competitor in the field.
If the rules committee and/or rules officials can include information from outside sources in any situation, they are obligated to consider it in all situations. It cannot be an arbitrary choice founded on a personal decision. It must be a consistent policy and getting it right is paramount.
Of course, that brings us to the question of people calling-in when they think they have observed a rules infraction. Compared to other sports, how is this possible?
Some fan sitting in an easy chair, sipping a liquid lunch, snow whipping across his driveway on a blustery January afternoon, sees a player break a branch while taking a practice swing almost spills his drink trying to win the race to call in.
There is no prize. The winner’s name is not announced. There is no recognition. In fact, it reminds me of some guy infecting my computer with a virus because he can and to screw me up. He gains nothing, but smug satisfaction. If you ask me, it’s a bit pathetic.
People say they don’t do it in other sports, so why golf?
In the first place, the one thing every golfer has in common is a universal set of rules. Any player can play any course they choose and play it from the exact location the best players play from. Occasionally, an average player can even play in a pro-am with a top professional competing in a professional championship.
Neither of these happens in any sport.
Golf is different. Players actually call penalties on themselves. Historically, the integrity applied by golfers throughout the years doesn’t exist in any other sport. In fairness, the design of the game which provides a time lapse between plays is different than most other sports.
With a time lapse comes an opportunity to discuss things, including rules infractions. Further, a game/tournament lasts over a four-day period, most commonly with one round/quarter played each day, providing an opportunity to adjust a score at any time during the four days.
The place where a lot of people disagree with a contentious ruling, changing a player’s score after that person has returned a scorecard occurs when the committee imposes a penalty from a previous round during play on the following day. Here, I’m torn.
I believe in getting it right, but I disagree with a penalty for an incorrect score. In my opinion, the player did not return an incorrect score. The player signed for a score they believed was correct. If there is an error, so be it. Adjust the score and include any penalties and move on without a double penalty.
I also think that once a rules official has informed a player of a certain procedure, no further penalty can be imposed or score adjusted once the ball is put into play.
Let’s get back to calling in. Given the anticipated changes to the rules set to arrive in 2019, there should be ample fodder for the fans to be involved in PGA Tour events. Imagine the fun when a player can drop the ball from one inch above the ground and not be accused of placing the ball.
Currently, I don’t think PGA Tour players are expert enough in the Rules of Golf and they really should be. Knowing the procedure and penalties could have an effect on shot selection.
The majority of rounds I play now are with long time friends and/or retired golf professionals. Over and over, what I hear is “I wouldn’t know who to phone if I was going to call-in.”
If you feel certain, you have spotted a rules infraction, you can go use the respective website or @pgatour or, in the case of this week’s U.S. Open, @USGA on Twitter.
Golf might be the only sport where fans can influence the outcome and not attend the event and we do want to get it right, but please do us all a favour and don’t call in. Call a friend instead. To everyone, enjoy PGA Tour golf for what it is – the greatest show on earth played by the same rules used by professionals and amateurs alike.