Should Golf Allow Snitches to Affect Tournaments?

January 25, 2011

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Johnny Goodman is out today, so I’ll be covering the sports beat.  In a move that is sure to shock Johnny, I’ll turn the focus to his favorite sport – golf.

Fan of golf have a unique power that is uncommon in the world of sports fans – they can actually affect the outcome of events.  Viewers of televised golf tournaments can actually call or email to notify the governing body of violations that occurred during the tournament.  The officials can then review footage to determine if a violation occurred.  There is a good reason why viewers can catch things that the tournament officials don’t –  unlike most sports where the action is concentrated at one physical location, golf has action occurring on every spots of the course.  Although officials are present, it’s not like an NFL game where they can huddle together to make a call.

The real issue isn’t really that a viewer can cause a player to be penalized a stroke or two – it’s that the infraction can cause the player to be disqualified.  If a player signs an incorrect scorecard, they are disqualified – even if they thought the scorecard was accurate.

Let’s take a look at a recent occurrence.  At the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday, Padraig Harrington replaced his ball on the green and then inadvertently touch his ball when he removed his marker.  He thought that the ball not not move from the spot where he placed it.  However, a TV viewer emailed to indicate that it had moved.  The viewer was correct – the ball ended up in a different spot … but the width of 1-2 dimples.  Harrington should have penalized himself two stroke.  Since he did not, and since he signed a scorecard that did not include the penalty, he was disqualified from the tournament.  Prior to the infraction, he was one spot behind the leader.

I’m admittedly not much of a golf fan.  I do understand that golfers take the rulebook very seriously.  However, if you need to use slow-mo to find the violation (as officials needed to do), did the player really gain an advantage?  Another PGA golfer made an astute observation – the top players are more likely to have this happen to them, simply because they are on television more often.  That’s certainly a concern for me – I’d definitely want a level playing field.

What’s the answer?  Give the officials some flexibility in enforcing penalties.  Obviously, care would need to be taken to avoid having players push the envelope, but surely there is a way to do this.  In the case of Harrington, penalize him two strokes and perhaps an additional stroke for not having caught the violation himself.  But don’t throw him out of the tournament for an unintentional violation.  This would be akin to having a baseball team forfeit a game because the pitcher commits a balk.  Make the punishment fit the crime.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Evan
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 08:28:50

    I’m not a golf fan myself. I wish something like this was around for baseball during the ’77 Black Friday NLCS game between the Phillies and Dodgers. Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes could have called themselves out (Garvey still hasn’t touched home plate) out of fear of disqualification. Kidding of course, but golf is really foreign to me, partially because I can’t imagine golf rules working in other sports. I think replays (in the situation in your post) shouldn’t be used in golf unless camera coverage is the same for all players (which it won’t be, so that would remove it).


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