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Continued: Column: Letting armchair officials police the sport a disaster waiting to happen

  • Article by: JIM LITKE , AP Sports Columnist
  • Last update: June 14, 2013 - 7:55 PM

"No one," he added, "wants to win when they do something wrong."

The rules of golf were first codified in 1744, and because of the sprawling field of play, the burden of calling fouls was placed on the players themselves. Let's take the high road and assume they have ever since, and that the same ethic holds for another 250 years or so.

It seems as optimistic as the claim by most pro golfers that no competitor would dare use performance-enhancing drugs. It also contradicts everything we know about human nature, especially when huge sums of money are at stake, but it's possible.

Yet even that doesn't solve the problem.

In golf, it doesn't matter whether a rule was violated intentionally. And a golfer can be penalized up until the final ball of the last golfer in the field finds the bottom of the cup and all the scorecards have been signed. Silly as the conversation above sounds, there's absolutely nothing that would prevent it from happening.

The same golfers who fielded questions about potential cheating said they could live with that scenario.

"It's part of the game," Geoff Ogilvy said. "But I don't think anybody likes it."

"I don't think it's the best thing," said Scott, who proposed having rules officials watch the coverage the way replay officials in sports like football, and to a lesser extent, baseball and hockey do.

"It's always been like that," David Toms said. "If I break a rule, whether I meant to or not, I have no problem having it called."

Let's hope so, since the players don't have a choice at the moment.

Among all of the game's still-antiquated rules, none is more in need of a fix than the one mandating disqualification for signing a scorecard deemed incorrect because of something uncovered after the fact — especially as it applies to the majors. The controversy involving Woods at the Masters might have been worse had he been DQ'd, and in either case, it required some very tortured and ultimately unsatisfying logic to keep him in the field.

If golf insists on being the only big-time sport running a "Crime Stoppers" call-in service, the governing bodies — the USGA and the Royal & Ancient — should meet with pro tours around the world and modify the rules governing scorecards at the top level of the game. Let them assess the appropriate penalty for the violation whenever conclusive evidence turns up, but without piling on a disqualification.

TV sets, after all, are only going to get bigger and better. If golf aims to do the same, there's no time like the present to fix it.

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