Golf and I have always remained rather uneasy acquaintances. Basically, I stink, which, in my family, puts me in a minority. I have a sister, Joan, who has been a championship-flight city golfer for years, a brother-in-law, John, who plays well, and a nephew, Joey, who is a back-to-back city golf champion in ’08 and ’09.
But, the fact that I stink will not prevent me from weighing in on what I’ll call the summer of dumb golf rules.
It started with professional Dustin Johnson, who was leading the US Open by a stroke when he addressed the ball for his second shot on the final hole of one of the four most prestigious tournaments in the world. Johnson had hit his tee shot off the fairway to the right.
He eventually bogeyed the hole but still qualified for a three-way playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson, that is until tournament officials came up to him and told him that he had allowed his club to touch the ground in an area that was classified a bunker, which is a no-no. The idea is allowing a player to ground the club could improve the position of the ball in the sand. I get it.
But, the area where Johnson stood looked nothing like a trap to me. I saw tufts of grass, and there were spectators standing on both sides of the very area tournament officials later told him was a bunker.
Admittedly, there was a posted notice warning golfers about the type of terrain from which Johnson hit, a notice he sheepishly admitted he hadn’t read, but can you blame him for assuming that an area where people were lined up on either side of him just a few feet away wouldn’t be a trap? Have you ever seen spectators allowed to stand in a sand trap?
Certainly, there are tournament marshals all over a course during a pro event. Because the area had been trampled by thousands of pairs of feet and people were allowed to stand in the very area that was supposedly a hazard, would it have been too much to ask that a marshal remind Johnson that, despite the terrain not looking like a bunker, it was and he couldn’t ground his club?
Apparently, unless the golfer asks for a ruling, marshals keep mum.
Imagine if you watched someone in a parking lot backing out of a space and you could see the driver was about to back into a pole, would you yell a warning or would you wait for the accident to happen and then say to him, “I saw that was going to happen, but because you didn’t ask me if anything was back there, I didn’t say anything.”
The second to be victimized by a dumb golf rule was Juli Inkster, an LPGA Hall of Fame golfer. In the Safeway Classic, while waiting out a 30-minute delay on the 10th hole, she slipped a small weighted “doughnut” over the end of her club to swing to stay loose as she waited out the delay.
That’s when some narc of a TV viewer found a way to call tournament officials and tell them that what Inkster had done was technically illegal because the weight was a training aid, not allowed in competition. At the end of Inkster’s round, she was disqualified and sent home.
What Inkster did gave her absolutely no competitive advantage, and it is hardly her fault that the slow play of others forced a half-hour delay!
Instead of nit-picking what Inkster did, how about trying to determine who was holding up play that long while standing over a ball for interminable lengths of time before deciding to swing?
Just when I thought I’d seen it all, a couple of weeks later, pro golfer Jim Furyk had a problem, one that occurred BEFORE, not during, a PGA event called The Barclays, in a pro-am, a round where pros are paired with amateurs who pay for the right to play with them, a round in which only half the golfers in the tournament even play, a round that has no bearing whatsoever on the tournament scoring itself.
When his cell phone lost power overnight, thereby preventing a preset alarm from going off, Furyk overslept and missed his 7:30 a.m. tee time. After bolting upright in bed with that sickening feeling that it was far too light out to be on time for a commitment, he threw on some clothes, bolted for the course and arrived there five minutes late.
Instead of a modest fine or something of that nature, he was denied entry into the tournament for the entire weekend. Instead of throwing him in a cart, running him out to catch up with the rest of his foursome and allowing Furyk, who has a reputation as one of the nicest guys on the tour, an opportunity to apologize and play in what amounts to nothing more than a pretournament social event, much like those baseball fantasy camps that fans pay thousands of dollars to attend, Furyk was not allowed to make a living that weekend.
How is that fair considering that only half the golfers are even required to play in the pro-am?
While rules are necessary to ensure a balanced playing field in all athletic competition, it seems to me that common sense should play a role in preventing players from being victimized by honest mistakes, especially ones that didn’t give them any competitive advantage, as in Inkster’s case, or didn’t apply to all, as in Furyk’s case. And, that is this nongolfer’s opinion.
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