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

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

ARDMORE, Pa. — "Hello, Merion Golf Club. May I help you?"

"Yes. Can I speak to a rules official from the U.S. Golf Association, please. I saw a twig move."

"Sir, thousands of twigs get tossed around here every day. It's a golf course."

"Yeah, but this one was moved by Tiger Woods' backswing, in a fairway bunker on No. 16."

"Excuse me, but how would you know that? There's no place for fans to see anything on 16. There's barely places to stand on that hole."

"I'm not there. I'm in Phoenix, watching on an 80-inch high-def TV.

"I'm sure it's very nice, sir. But when did this allegedly happen?

"Thursday. And there's no 'allegedly' about it. I just got home from an out-of-town wedding and started watching the DVR. I rewound it eight times, twice in super slo-mo. And I'm on the rules committee at my club. He broke Rule 13-4c — moving a loose impediment lying in a hazard."

"But it's Sunday, sir. And this is the U.S. Open. Mr. Woods is on the verge of winning his first major in five years. He's on the last hole.

"I know, but he should have been penalized and he needs to be disqualified. He signed an incorrect scorecard Thursday. A rule is a rule is a rule."

___

Someday soon, golf is going to regret letting people watching from home phone in rules violations. Consider what happened at this year's Masters a dry run.

During the second round there, Woods hit a ball that ricocheted off the flagstick and into the pond at No. 15. Soon after, a viewer — later revealed to be David Eger, a Champions Tour golfer who once ran the USGA's rules committee — notified tournament officials that Woods had taken an improper drop before hitting his next shot. The next day, Masters officials reviewed the sequence a second time and penalized Woods two strokes, but quickly cited another rule to avoid disqualifying him for signing an incorrect scorecard.

At the U.S. Open on Thursday, the claim by at least one viewer that Steve Stricker took an illegal drop at No. 3 found its way to the USGA rules committee. Later the same day, as many as a half-dozen other viewers contended Adam Scott grounded his club in a hazard at No. 5. After reviewing both shots, the USGA decided no violation occurred.

So it may take a unique set of circumstances, but if they ever align, all this armchair officiating is going to test the notion that golfers are more honorable than their counterparts in the other pro sports, where the prevailing ethic could be summed up as "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin.'"

Imagine if the caller in the conversation above also happened to be a pal of a golfer chasing Woods down the stretch of a tournament on Sunday; even worse, what if he called in at the direction of Woods' rival.

A handful of golfers asked that question Friday couldn't imagine.

"It's just a different type of sport," Jim Furyk said. "Every other sport I played, you were taught how to cheat, how to get away with things. In this sport, you cheat once in your life, you get labeled. It sticks forever and you're an outcast. You're taught a totally different set of rules here.

"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.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Chicago 6:00 PM
Cleveland
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Washington
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close