Sports Commentary 9/18/13
Great Day for PGA of America…Not so much for the PGA Tour
A “DIFFICULT AND AWKWARD” TIME FOR THE PGA TOUR
Yesterday was a good day for the PGA of America, a “difficult and awkward” day for the PGA Tour. The PGA of America did itself proud by awarding another major, the 2019 PGA Championship, and the 2024 Ryder Cup to the Bethpage Black course on Long Island. Known as “America’s Country Club” Bethpage Black has already proven itself as a challenging course for major events, with two U.S. Opens and last year’s Barclays, part of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs, to it’s credit, and, with those rabid New York fans who love their beloved course, it will create a very lively Ryder Cup atmosphere that is likely to spur on the U.S. team while giving the European team a very vocal 13th player to deal with. As for the PGA Tour, yesterday commissioner Tim Finchem said the Tour is trying to find new ways to deal with the “difficult and awkward” situation of spectators or television viewers alerting officials to rules violations. It’s not a new situation for the PGA Tour, or for the European Tour, both of which have already altered their rules concerning video replay rulings. The PGA Tour and the R & A, in the wake of after the fact disqualifications, to Padraig Harrington at the Abu Dhabi Classic, and Camillo Villegas at Kapalua, made revisions, the PGA Tour version, decision 33-7/4.5, ruling that players can’t be disqualified for signing an inaccurate scorecard if the ruling on a violation phoned in by a viewer doesn’t come until after the player has left the course. In both Harrington and Villegas’ cases they were infractions the players were unaware of and Tour rules officials failed to act on on the course. At this year’s Masters Tiger Woods had three legal options for dropping his ball after hitting it into the water on the 15th hole at Augusta National. He took a fourth, illegal, option. Amateur golfers are sticklers for the rules and the sanctity of the game and a viewer just looked up the publicly listed phone number for the Augusta National clubhouse to inform tournament officials of Tiger’s infraction. Tiger wasn’t informed by officials until after he’d signed an inaccurate scorecard, so the new ruling allowed him to avoid disqualification, though he did take a two stroke penalty. It wasn’t Tiger’s only bout with improper placement out of the water this year. At the Players Championship, which he went on to win, he treated the water like a lateral hazard, dropping the ball laterally to where it went in the water, rather than where it crossed over the water, 50 yards further back. With every television analyst, including Tiger friendly Johnny Miller, loudly verbalizing about the infraction, it went unpenalized. Now Finchem feels the situation of viewers calling in infractions as they detect them on television has become “difficult and awkward”, and Tour officials are hunkering down to come up with new ways of dealing with the “problem”. The new attitude comes on the heels of another incident involving Tiger, in which his ball moved when he was removing twigs from around it behind the first green in round two of last week’s BMW Championship. A videographer on the course caught the movement and, after a slow motion review, Tiger was assessed a two stroke penalty. Tiger didn’t come out looking very good in any of these incidents, at the very least demonstrating a lack of knowlege of the rules of the game. Can it be the Tour isn’t happy about the scrutiny surrounding it’s meal ticket, which may only have a decade of shelf life left to it, and that’s the reason the astute golf fan is suddenly creating a “difficult and awkward” situation? With a question from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.