Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
The LPGA event in South Korea had such a rules mess that they cancelled the entire first round and the head of rules resigned. We won’t even try to unravel this one as it seems there was craziness everywhere, perhaps starting with the mower operators who couldn’t make a clean cut on the edge of a green. What’s the craziest rules snafu you’ve ever seen or been involved with?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): There have been so many rules snafus in pro tournaments over the past 3-4 years, it’s hard to pick just one. As I’ve said many times, the R&A and USGA should just throw the old rules out, and start again, with a limit of, say, 20 rules that even an idiot could understand. On a personal level, I was once disqualified when I thought I had lost my ball in the river. I then played a second ball, but didn’t declare it a provisional. We discovered my first ball had in fact carried over the river. My opponents and I weren’t sure what to do, so they recommended I play both balls into the hole, and ask for a ruling at the end of the round. I agreed. The ruling: disqualified for playing two balls! (That’s what you get for trying to do the right thing.)
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer, (@davykap): I was playing a match against a friend at Caledon Woods three years ago and he pulled his drive pretty significantly onto the left side of one of the holes on the front nine. When we got up to the ball, we discovered that it had come to rest on a narrow one-foot strip of grass between the cart path and a shrubby hazard. Being a right-handed golfer, my friend was unable to take a normal stance between the hazard and the cart path, so he declared that he was going to flip his golf club over and hit the shot as a lefty. This declaration allowed him to take his stance on the cart path, which subsequently entitled him to relief. However, upon taking his relief to the right of the cart path, my opponent declared that the situation had changed and he was now going to take a normal right-handed swing. After more than 10 minutes arguing about it, I allowed him to take his right-handed swing under the condition that we look up the rule after the round for clarification purposes. And wouldn’t you know it, it turned out that he was right! He was allowed to do that. To this day, we still argue about that incident whenever we see one another.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: That one in SK was a doozy, but the most egregious was the manic mob moving the massive boulder out of Eldrick’s way on the 13th hole at the 1999 Phoenix Open. It was within the letter of the Rules on loose impediments but, while reflecting Eldrick’s attitude, it was the antithesis of the spirit of the game and sportsmanship. He ended up with a birdie but thanks to the Golf Gawds protecting the field, he didn’t win the tourney (finished 3rd).
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’ve played in a lot of competitive events and never signed an incorrect scorecard but I almost always have a freak-out moment sometime afterwards, thinking I may have missed something. It’s why I’m particularly sympathetic to anyone who gets disqualified or penalized for a scoring error like Roberto de Vincenzo at the 1968 Masters. However, the strangest scoring snafu I ever saw was when Tiger Woods played from the wrong spot after taking a drop on the 15th hole during the second round of the 2013 Masters. He signed for a bogey but should have added a two stroke penalty for his rules violation. He even admitted he played from the wrong spot in a post round interview. Under normal circumstances that would have resulted in disqualification but by Saturday morning Masters Rules Chairman Fred Ridley cited some sketchy rule that absolved Tiger of a DQ in favour of retroactively adding the two stroke penalty. Ironically, that was the same year that the Masters assessed a slow play penalty for the first time in “forever” against 14-year old amateur Guan Tianlang.
Justin Thomas won on the weekend for the fifth time in this calendar year and appears to be a lock for Player of the Year. In total, he has won 5 of his 7 titles in Asia or Hawaii against remarkably weaker fields than many North American mainland based tournaments. Does that diminish his accomplishments or, apart from majors, are all wins equal on the PGA Tour?
Deeks: I think you have to take the view that, apart from majors, all wins are equal… otherwise you’d go nuts trying to “rate” tournaments based on their fields, or difficulty of courses, or prestige based on history. I’d still pick Spieth for Player of the Year anyway.
Kaplan: I don’t think it diminishes anything and I don’t believe that these fields are that weak. More than half of the field from this past season’s Tour Championship was in the fold at the inaugural CJ Cup last week. The Dell Technologies Championship that Thomas won over Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman certainly didn’t have a weak field, nor did the PGA Championship in August, where JT won his first major. It’s not like these events are of secondary importance, like this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship or the Puerto Rico Open in March. These are legitimate PGA Tour events and JT deserves credit for winning them.
Quinn: Just like the Kentucky Derby, the Olympic 100-metres, Professional Darts, it matters a tonne who’s in the field. That’s why the Tour Championship means so much and pays off so royally because it has the strongest field of the year (er, I mean ‘season.’) Thomas’s $17 M since joining the Tour means a lot too, but in 2016-17 it was the Major that is the true measure.
Mumford: Back in the old days when Fred Couples would pad his bank account with Silly Season victories, they were considered “unofficial” wins. This crazy wrap-around season has made similar weak field tournaments into official wins but the conditions are still the same. Thomas’ wins at The Dell and the PGA Championship are solid but the others not so much. For someone of his immense talent it’s not going to matter in the long run but to me it’s just one more reason the PGA Tour season should start in January and end in September. And while we’re focused on strength of field, let’s kill all the “opposite field” events too.
A charity is auctioning off a round of golf plus lunch for three people to join Phil Mickelson at his home course in Rancho Santa Fe, California. The bidding is currently at $100,000 and likely to go higher. What golf experience would you be prepared to pay big bucks for?
Deeks: I’ve been lucky to have played golf with a number of famous players whose names I shall not drop for fear of being shunned and ridiculed by Round Table readers. Fortunately, I have never paid a dime for these encounters, nor would I ever, unless all proceeds went to a charity that I would support. And even then, big bucks for me would be a grand. I’m happy to see that this Mickelson deal is a charity event, so jolly good to all those bidding in six figures, and good on ya Phil for doing it!
Kaplan: I’d pay big money to play one round at Augusta National. That’s about it. I certainly wouldn’t pay big bucks to play with a professional and there is no chance that I would EVER pay ANYTHING to play with FIGJAM!
Quinn: The next time I win the lottery, I’d be more than willing to pay the big bucks for an Ireland golf tour with my sister and two brothers. We’ll linger at the brilliant olde Slieve Donard Hotel and walk out the back door to play Royal County Down time and time again. That would be worth every penny. I’d check for messages every week or so.
Mumford: The idea of spending a small fortune to play with Phil or any other PGA Tour player in a charity event doesn’t hold much intrigue for me. When it comes to fantasy golf, my preference would be playing an exceptional course like Pine Valley or Cypress Point. If you can pair me with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Billy Crystal, even better.