February 2, 2011
Phil Mickelson had his caddy tend the pin on the 72nd hole at the Farmers Insurance Open and nearly holed out to force a playoff with Bubba Watson. It would have been the third playoff in the first month of the PGA Tour season. Add that to a 36-hole Sunday finish, a rookie winner and Martin Kaymer passing Tiger in the world rankings and it’s been a pretty exciting 2011 so far.
But the biggest story in golf is the disqualifications of Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington. Villegas was disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for moving some loose grass as his ball rolled down the slope towards him. Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship after it was determined that he moved his ball and failed to replace it.
Both infractions call for a two-shot penalty. That is, unless they are reported by fans watching at home and scorecards have been signed before the penalties are assessed. Then the players are DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has asked golf’s governing bodies to review situations in which players could be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. That’s a good start. But it’s not enough. Something needs to be done about fans reporting rules violations.
Golf is known as a gentleman’s game. It’s a game of honor. It’s a game where players call penalties on themselves. They consult rules officials if there is a question. They don’t try to fool the officials like Derek Jeter pretending to be hit by a pitch.
Fans watching on TV don’t get to call in balls and strikes and they don’t get to call in holding or pass interference penalties. And they shouldn’t be able to call the PGA Tour get players DQ’d either.
It’s not fair. A fan saw what Villegas did and called it in. Would that fan have called it in if he saw Tiger do it? Maybe. What if it was a guy like Gary Woodland? Or Bill Lunde? (Both are in the top 25 on the money list) They would probably not be shown on TV so they could do the same thing and nobody would call it in.
The same thing goes for Harrington’s case. It took a slow motion replay to see that he inadvertently moved his ball while marking it. Harrington never denied touching the ball, but said he didn’t think the ball had moved. If it takes slow motion replay to see the ball move, it didn’t move enough to necessitate a disqualification.
I’m not the only one that thinks this should not happen. Ian Poulter tweeted, “An armchair official tweeted in to get Camilo DQ’d, what is wrong with people have they got nothing better to do.”
The rules are what make golf what it is. They don’t change every year like the rules in the NFL. If the tours want to take advantage of technology like slow motion replays to uphold the rules, that’s great. Get more rules officials on the course or have somebody in a replay booth like the NFL does.
In one of the many great episodes of Seinfeld, Jerry turns the tables on a heckler by showing up at her office and heckling her while she works. She doesn’t like it very much. She is so upset that she runs into the street and ends up losing her pinky toe.
I don’t think these fans would be too thrilled to have Villegas and Harrington show up to their jobs, monitor their every move and report any mistakes they make. So as fans of the game, let’s just watch and enjoy the game and leave the officiating to the officials. We don’t need to be putting our pinky toes at risk.