Tiger Shows His Flaws, And The PGA’s

I’m not going to defend Tiger Woods. I’m not going to even say I trust him. After all, if you’d cheat on a human being – on your wife and the mother of your children, no less – then it isn’t a stretch to say you’d cheat in a game.

So I’m not necessarily buying Tiger’s naiveté regarding his illegal ball drop during the second round of The Masters, notwithstanding that he actually outed himself. I’m especially not buying it because this isn’t the first time that Tiger’s integrity on a golf course has been called into question. Earlier this year, in Abu Dhabi, he was cited for an illegal drop.

Now here it is, just a few months later, and he’s cited for another illegal ball drop. Only this time it isn’t along the off-Broadway fringes of Abu Dhabi. Instead it’s center stage at The Masters, the most prestigious of all golf tournaments.

Cited once again for an illegal drop.

Yes, Tiger dropped his ball farther away from the pin, and on the surface that might seem as if he was penalizing himself. Until you realize that Tiger’s drop actually gave him a better lie and better yardage for his subsequent wedge shot. Critics now charge that not only should he have been penalized, but also disqualified for turning in an incorrect scorecard.

Whatever the truth is, Tiger Woods is a 17-year PGA Tour veteran and guy who has played competitive golf almost his whole life. You would think that by now he’d know the rule on ball drops, and in all of its intricacies.

What I don’t get, though, is why the PGA Tour requires its players to know all the rules and also self-enforce them. Yes, I get that golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game. But this is 2013 and this is a professional sport, a billion-dollar industry. Why doesn’t the PGA Tour have professional officials at each hole knowing and enforcing the rules? Think about it. What other pro sport requires its participants to both know and call their own infractions?

But this is what golfers are required to do. They’re required to know the entire rule book and self-enforce the rules. They’re also required to keep their own score. Accurately. If not, even if it’s an honest mistake, they’re disqualified.

Imagine that in another sport.

Imagine the NBA Finals without any officials, with players calling their own fouls, and having to do so with absolute accuracy. Imagine LeBron James in the NBA Finals shooting on Kobe Bryant, missing the shot, and then Kobe coming over to the scorer’s table and saying, “Hey, I fouled him.” Imagine that if Kobe didn’t call his own foul, and it showed later, on video, that he did foul and didn’t call it on himself, then retroactively the Los Angeles Lakers lose the game and are disqualified from the remainder of the Finals.

That’s how the PGA Tour operates.

The PGA Tour requires its athletes to keep their own score and also know every picayune rule in their sport.

Not so with other sports.

Every other sport has official scorekeepers and professionals who officiate the rules. Again, I get that golf is supposed to be a gentlemen’s game and that it’s quaint when participants penalize themselves. But really. Isn’t it time for the PGA Tour to move into the 21st century?

Put professional PGA Tour officials at every hole and have them enforce the rules. If that official misses an infraction, then it’s missed and not retroactively enforced, just like how it happens with every other sport.

And while we’re at it, have professional PGA Tour scorekeepers keeping score – not the golfers.

If you do that, you prevent a golfer from inadvertently turning in an incorrect scorecard and ruining a perfectly good round of golf, as what happened to Roberto Di Vicenzo in 1968, back when competitors kept each other’s scorecard. Remember? It might have cost him The Masters.

De Vicenzo made a birdie on the final-round 17th hole, but playing partner Tommy Aaron erroneously entered a 4 on the scorecard instead of 3, giving De Vicenzo a worse score – a 66 instead of a 65. At the end of their round, De Vicenzo signed the scorecard without closely checking it. According to the Rules of Golf the higher score stood. If not for that honest mistake, De Vicenzo would have tied Bob Goalby for first place, and the two would have then met the next day in an 18-hole playoff.

All of it spurred De Vicenzo, an Argentine, to bury his face in his hands and utter these heart-rending words in his broken English: “What a stupid I am!”

Imagine these types of rules regarding infractions and scoring in other sports.

Imagine another sport telling an athlete that he committed an infraction an hour earlier in the contest, that he should have known fully about the infraction, and that he should have self-reported it. And, by the way, because you didn’t know and didn’t do so, you also turned in an incorrect score that you are also required to accurately keep yourself. Therefore, you automatically lose. And if you happen to be playing in a tournament, or a postseason playoff format, you and your team are done for that, too.

It would be ridiculous.

It would be considered archaic.

But it’s the way the PGA Tour operates.

(2) Comments

  • Charlie Greene
    30 Jun 2013

    Tiger has gotten so many free passes, from audible F-bombs with ladies and kids in the crowd, to throwing his club that nearly hit his caddie in a previous U.S. Open, to surly interaction with the crowd.
    I also don’t like the super overly done fist pumps when sinking long putts or even plain makeable putts.
    Jack Nicklaus, for my money the best player who ever trod the fairways, would sink a putt, walk to the cup to retrieve it and tip his visor. What class.

  • Jorge Dominguez
    30 Jun 2013

    Pete, you are a special gift to us readers and I would like to thank you for making my life more pleasant by reading your insightful articles.
    I’d also like to say that it’s long overdue that someone points out the owners’ disrespect for the game of baseball and the fans with their abusive behavior by replacing the autonomous commissioner with one of their own – “Bud Light” – and dismantling the umpires union and who knows how many other things that we fans don’t even know about.
    I can see Kenesaw Mountain Landis spinning in his grave.