Aug 14, 2011; Westfield, IN, USA; Professional golfer Craig Stadler hits a tee shot during the 2011 Fuzzy Zoeller

Only In Golf


Imagine you are sitting in your home, or at the local Watering Hole watching a Major League baseball game. Bryce Harper takes off for second base, the catcher throws down, the tag is made and Harper is called out. After you see it on replay, you know the tag didn’t touch Harper.

Now you Tweet Major League Baseball to point out the problem, the game is stopped, the umpires look at the video tape and agree with you, that the tag was missed. Harper is allowed to take second base, and the game continues. Yeah..I know there  is no instant replay in baseball, but hang with me here.

In golf, all of the above is perfectly legal. If a player knowingly or unknowingly commits a violation of the rules, you as a fan can call the network, and have the incident reviewed. And as a case in January of 2011 at the Tournament Of Champions in Kapalua, Camillo Villegas committed an infraction on the fifteenth hole, and by the time the viewer, who was in Daytona Beach Florida, Tweeted it in to look at, Villegas had finished, tallied his score and was disqualified for signing an incorrect score card.

Yesterday Ernie Els was having a bad day at the Scottish Open in Inverness, and as he put it “digging a grave” in a greenside bunker at the sixth hole, a fan called in to accuse him of grounding his club in the bunker and should add one more stroke to the already giant score.

Senior official Andy McFee reviewed the footage, and it was determined an infraction had not occurred, and Els finished his round shooting an opening round 70. Had he been guilty of the rules violation, he would have been disqualified because by the time anyone heard about the incident, Ernie had already finished his round and had signed the card.

The first time I remember this type of thing happening was during the San Diego Open at Torrey Pines in 1987. It had been raining and Craig Stadler’s ball landed under a low cypress tree. Not wanting to get his trousers wet as he got on his knees under the tree, he took a towel off his bag and placed it under his knees and hit the shot.

Later that afternoon, a fan had phoned the network and indicated Stadler had violated rule 13-3 (A player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking his stance, but he must not build a stance), and had not assessed the mandatory two-stroke penalty. The PGA Officials reviewed the incident, and agreed he was in violation of the rules.

They also determined that he had signed an incorrect score card, and he was disqualified from the event. The incident infuriated Stadler so badly, he wouldn’t even talk to reporters about it. The whole thing had cost Craig Stadler in excess of $30,000(remember, this was 1987). When the tree was cut down in 1995, Stadler was called and asked if he wanted to come out and do the deed. He did.

Technology is at the root of this problem. Golfers are among the most honest athletes in the world. They will call an infraction on themselves, but when they don’t realize they have errored, we the fans, armed with 60″ inch televisions, cel phones and digital cameras will be there to right the wrong.

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Tags: Camilo Villegas Craig Stadler Ernie Els Golf

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