Teed Off (Dec. 1, 2013)

with Robert Bicknell

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York City over a 30 minute time period. Her cries for help went unanswered by local residents in her own apartment building. However, Tiger Wood’s golf ball moves 1/32 of an inch and the Tour Rules switchboard lights up like a Christmas tree. Is this a sign of the times?

However, human nature, being what it, doesn’t seem to change. For example, in 1980, Nick Faldo once observed Sandy Lyle applying tape to the top of his putter to cut down the glare of the sun and, instead of saying “Hey Sandy, I don’t think that’s allowed. We’d better consult an official”, let it go until a few holes had been played, THEN reported it so Lyle would be penalized.

OK, that was then, this is now. Right?

Nope, people continue to be evil assclowns. In the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Stuart Appleby didn’t know that every bunker was to be treated as a hazard, even if it was outside the ropes and the venue for a picnic by a dozen fans.

Once he’d cleared out the folding chairs, coolers and blankets, he proceeded to remove a leaf and then took a practice swing.

A fan who’d been watching waited for Appleby to hit his approach before announcing that he’d be reporting him to a Rules official. The Australian took a quadruple bogey nine and instead of finishing one shot out of a playoff, fell to 17th.

You’d think the fan would have mentioned it to him BEFORE he entered the bunker, but no. We seem to enjoy wallowing in other people’s misfortunes – especially if they are rich and famous and if you doubt this, explain the popularity of TMZ and other media which specializes in catching celebrities doing something wrong or outrageously stupid.

I have always felt that instant replay is important in some sports, but not golf for the simple reason that not all players are covered equally by the cameras. If you’re a top player, you’re under the spotlight more often, while a much lesser known player is rarely ever seen on TV.

More importantly, golf is “supposed” to be a game of honor where players routinely call penalties on themselves. This is what separates golf from football (soccer) where players fall down grabbing a body part and howling for a penalty when the wind from an opposing player strikes them.

Unfortunately, we are human and make mistakes, but in most cases – especially at the PGA Tour level – they are honest mistakes and not blatant attempts at cheating.

Needless to say, the governing bodies have decided to change the rules a bit to allow for honest mistakes and especially ones that cannot be detected without the help of HD TV and other artificial aids.

I’m sure this will come as a terrible blow to those people with far too much time on their hands and who sit at home with their face one metre from an HD TV with digital slow motion and 20-power zoom hoping to discover some penalty that they can call in and garner their 15 minutes of notoriety.

These are the same people who throw things at the TV when an incorrect penalty is called on their favourite sports team. They are looking for someone to blame for whatever bothers them in their lives and its becoming more prevalent in today’s society.

Woods and any other golf professional will continue to call penalties on themselves when it is warranted, but we need to allow for the human condition as well. There are some things which escape our notice, such as a golf ball rotating 1/32nd of an inch instead of merely oscillating.

Sure, when Woods made an illegal drop in the Masters, he got nailed for it. When they explained what rules was violated, he accepted the penalty without argument. That’s being a golfer.

The question is how many amateur or weekend golfers would even KNOW they violated the rules, much less call a penalty on themselves?

Judging from the amount of illegal drops I see every week on the golf courses, I’d say most players aren’t even aware they are doing something wrong.

Bottom line: Learn the rules and make sure your playing partners know them as well. — VNS

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