A golfing buddy and I enjoyed breakfast together a few mornings ago, and naturally he (like myself) is an avid golfer and keeps up to speed on things happening in the world of golf, especially during the winter months when there’s little else to do. It’s worth noting that he and I tend to share a common opinion about most things regarding the game, but occasionally he’ll pose a differing viewpoint about a particular issue and he’s generally well prepared to defend it. That’s one of the things I respect about him – his ability to debate a topic without all of the typical, underlying emotional entanglements that are commonly found in/fueled by most sports-talk shows. Many of his arguments are so convincing that I would put him up against the Jim Rome’s of the sports world any day of the week, and have often pondered that maybe he missed his real calling in life.
While it’s not very often that he changes my own perception of things, he does have a way of forcing me to look at an issue from a different angle. And let me tell ya – he wasted little time working his own angle over breakfast, as we were hashing about the topic of viewer call-in/wannabe rules officials that seems to be taking control of the professional side of the game of golf.
Me: I guess there’s no better place to start than this Harrington thing that happened on Friday.
Him: Yeah, what about it?
Me: It’s obvious that we’re entering a point in the history of the game that requires some sort of solution to this problem of having viewers playing arm-chair rules officials and getting players DQ’d.
Him: You know, I agree with you.
Me: You do?
Him: Absolutely. I think the players need to brush up on their knowledge of the rules to prevent this type of thing from happening to begin with. These guys are competing for millions of dollars. You mean to tell me that you’re exempt from knowing the rules where you work? What about personal responsibility? What ever happened to that concept? This idea that these guys should be given a pardon for not knowing the rules of their trade is bullshit. Ignorance isn’t an excuse, not in my book.
Me: Look, I understand the need to maintain the traditions of the game. I get that. I don’t have a problem with that. But I don’t see finding a solution that allows a player to adjust his scorecard after the fact, after he’s unknowingly incurred a penalty prior to signing his scorecard – I don’t see that threatening the tradition of the game…. not one iota.
Him: Try telling that to Roberto De Vicenzo.
Me: I don’t see his situation 32 years ago factoring into the current discussion.
Him: Obviously. But if you make a change like this, then who’s to say that a guy like De Vicenzo doesn’t come out and contest the outcome of the 1968 Masters?
Me: He wouldn’t do that.
Him: How do you know that? Do you know the guy? Have you talked with him about it? You mean to tell me that on some level, this guy won’t look back on what happened and think that he should have rightfully been declared the winner of a major championship? If you don’t consider that, then what a stupid you are, too.
Me: Touche… But do you honestly think that that would happen? Seriously?
Him: Look, do I honestly think that it would happen? No…. It would most likely not happen. But I’m just trying to point out that doing something drastic like this can bring up a lot of history. The game doesn’t need more historical footnotes to bring about the perception that rules should be created or amended based on what is or isn’t popular. These viewer call-ins happen what – maybe once or twice a year? What impact have they really had on the game? The fact of the matter is that while everyone sees this as a big issue – it really isn’t. It just reinforces the point that if you’re talented enough to play golf at that level – it would be in your best interest to know and understand the rules. Then there are no after-the-fact DQ’s happening as a result of a viewer calling in.
Me: But therein lies a major part of the problem, too…. Sure, there’s only 34 rules that govern the game. But you have 100 sections and subsections that serve no other purpose but to confuse a player. As if that’s not enough, there are over 2000 examples that explain the process of their application. Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in our lifetime, has recently gone on record saying that the rules should be simplified…. he even brought up the point of a known USGA rules official saying that it was much more difficult to pass the test to be a rules official than it was to pass the bar exam.
Him: Well then I guess that settles it. If Jack said it then it must be gospel.
Me: You don’t agree with him?
Him: Look, it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing with Jack Nicklaus. He’s entitled to his opinion. But for the sake of argument – no, I don’t agree with him. The rules have served the game exceptionally well over the past 400+ years. Every rule in that rule book explains every conceivable situation that has ever occurred in the history of the game. I defy you to name me one instance in modern times when a rules official hasn’t been on hand to help a pro player figure out the proper procedure of a rule that he might be dealing with. Nearly every single group today has a rules official walking the fairways with them, and all they have to do is ask. Like I said earlier – ignorance is not an excuse.
Me: It’s obvious that you’re not going to see this issue any other way.
Him: I see it pretty clearly, yes. You hit a great approach shot and your ball lands on the stick and bounces into the water hazard fronting the green. You see it as unfair. You think you’re being punished for hitting a great shot, like Sergio would. But the fact of the matter is that it was nothing more than the result of ball hitting an object hard enough to repel it off of the green. An inch to the left or an inch to the right – it’s a different result. Were you unlucky? Sure. Were you being punished? By whom? These fictitious Golf Gods that everyone talks about? Never met ‘em. Sometimes life just isn’t fair – that’s the bottom line.
Me: I don’t think this issue is fair, correct. It’s the equivalent of getting 5 years in prison for failing to stop at a stop sign. The punishment clearly doesn’t fit the crime.
Him: Well, then you’d best make sure you stop at the stop sign, like you’re supposed to. I’m not coming to visit you in prison to talk about golf, just so you know.
Me: (giving up) How about this Vegas kid? Is he the real deal or what…………………