SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Take nothing away from Adam Scott. His playoff win over Angel Cabrera at the Masters was gripping drama and Australians are rightfully celebrating the first-ever Augusta win by one of their own.
Sure, there’ll be some downstream grumbling about Scott’s use of one of those goofy “anchored” putters, which could end up being outlawed by the Lords of Golf.
But a putter kerfuffle is nothing compared to the real issue facing professional golf: the sport can’t get out of its own way when it comes to something very basic. Golf is having a rules crisis.
The Tiger Woods drop on Friday’s 15th hole is just the latest highly-visible reminder that the gentle old game of golf is having real trouble adjusting to the Age of Instant Media.
Some have written that golf’s rules are too complicated and that’s why Woods committed (or didn’t commit) a violation. Nonsense. Golf’s rules are no more puzzling than those of baseball or football, and both of those sports move a heck of a lot faster. The difference is that baseball and football employ real-time referees who spot infractions and mete out justice on the spot.
Golf relies on a quaint old notion of self-policing…until it doesn’t. In this case, all was well until somebody called Masters officials to say they’d seen Woods drop his ball improperly after his approach shot rebounded off the flagstick and into the water. And then Woods himself told reporters he’d made an improper drop–a 2-stroke penalty.
After that, it gets even crazier. Since Woods had signed a scorecard without taking the penalty strokes, he could have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard (that’s how Roberto DiVincenzo lost the 1968 Masters). But Masters officials decided to let him play on. It’s a good thing he didn’t win the tournament; if he had, the debate would never end.
But there still needs to be a serious discussion within the sport. Sure, the old “call your own” gentleman’s code was fine way back when. But in a world where amateur officials are perched in front of their high-def TV’s and super-slo-mo DVR’s, ready to pounce on every perceived violation, golf has a problem. It’s one thing for the Twitterverse to debate whether a referee blew the call. It’s entirely another for the Twitterverse to be the referees.
Golf can easily fix this. Empower rules officials to assess penalties on the spot. If Woods’ drop was improper, he should have been hit with the penalty as soon as he hit the ball. Stop accepting phone calls from TV viewers. Does the NFL do this? Restore some certainty to the proceedings. A bad call or non-call is better than a call that takes hours to happen.
Sure, the game of golf can be slow. Judging its rules doesn’t need to be.
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