I think I wrote about this before, but it’s come up again recently, and I’m still in charge around here, so there.
As someone who likes to play golf, it would follow that I know the rules. And I do. Kind of. Sort of. The USGA’s official Rules of Golf 2012-15 is over 200 pages long, and while I originally sought to read the whole thing, the print is small and there’s a lot of stuff in there and…::sigh::
Anyway, Tiger Woods once again found himself under scrutiny for a potential rules violation at last weekend’s BMW Championship. I won’t get into the details of it, because most of you don’t care (and really, neither do I). My problem isn’t with whether or not Woods broke the rules; it’s with how the rules get enforced.
Golf has a history of television viewers calling in violations that they spot on television. It famously cost Dustin Johnson a spot in a playoff at the PGA Championship a few years back, and it cost Woods a couple strokes at The Masters this year. Even if I spotted a violation, I wouldn’t make a call. It’s not my place. I also wouldn’t even know who to call.
This weekend, Woods’ violation was caught by the cameras of a crew affiliated with the PGA Tour, not a television viewer. Woods was informed before he signed his scorecard, so he was simply penalized, not disqualified. But in this story I read this afternoon, Woods and Tour commissioner Tim Finchem championed the idea of a time limit being placed on call-ins.
I have an idea: ZERO MINUTES. STOP CALLING.
Failing that, here’s a second idea: IGNORE THE CALLS. That’s actually a serious one, and it’s for the same reason that I don’t like the replay challenge proposals for baseball: the extra scrutiny isn’t evenly applied to every player.
In the column, Woods asks the following question: “Is every player going to be mandated to have a camera follow them around everywhere they go — all 156 players (in a regular tour event) for every shot?”
That’s unlikely. And that’s the problem. When I was at the U.S. Open, I saw every group hit at least one shot. I also spent 11 hours at the golf course. Those of you watching at home were only able to see play that occurred after noon. So while my group’s adopted favorite, Simon Khan, could have been violating rules all over the place, nobody could call in and narc on him because his round wasn’t being shown.
Of course, the reason Khan and the other morning guys didn’t make the telecast is because they started the day something like 20-over-par and way out of contention. What’s a couple extra strokes when it doesn’t matter to the final result? But what about a Thursday or Friday broadcast, when players are playing at various different times regardless of where they are on the leaderboard? You’re still not seeing Simon Khan on television on a Thursday afternoon unless he’s on pace to break 60, so if he accidentally moves his ball near a tree and doesn’t replace it on his second shot on the fourth hole, nobody can call in and report it. But if Woods or Phil Mickelson or another top-ranked player ends up in the trees, we’re cutting to them right away to see how they get out of trouble. And if something happens, millions of people can see it simply because of who’s about to hit the ball. That’s not right.
I believe that if instant replay is going to be used in baseball, every single play should be reviewed in-house, and any errors fixed right away. It’s not that hard; just put an extra umpire in the press box, or in a Barcalounger in the umpire’s room, and give him a television. Boom, done.
Unless you really are going to record every single shot hit by every single player in every single tournament, you can’t allow replay. It’s just not fair to the players that people actually want to watch, and the players who play well over the first couple days of a tournament, that they are subject to potential penalties that lesser-known players aren’t simply by virtue of their elevated status.
So do the right thing, PGA Tour. Next time someone calls to rat someone out, answer the phone, and politely tell the caller to go outside, take a deep breath, and proceed to get a life.