Might as well get straight to the point. Golf is full of crap. Golf is a wonderful sport with often-superb drama, but the game is cursed by a self-righteous culture that is full of itself.
The Tiger Woods saga is a case in point. Tiger, as you know, was assessed a two-stroke penalty for taking an illegal drop. The drop occurred on Friday. The penalty came on Saturday. Such is the ways of golf.
Here is what golf says. Our sport is honorable. Our players self-police.
Here is what golf does. Allows players to self-police, unless they don’t like the verdict. Then in come the paratroopers.
A few questions about the two-stroke penalty:
1. Why does the rule say that one of Tiger’s options was to drop his ball “as nearly as possible” to the spot of the original shot? “As nearly as possible” is an abstraction. What does that mean? If you want someone to drop the ball in a certain area, say so. Within one feet? Within two feet? Say so.
Here is how you drop the ball as close as possible: You try to drop it in your own divot. That is trying to drop it as close as possible. That is the letter of the law, which frankly is what golf embraces. But no one tries to drop the ball in their own divot. Or one inch from their divot. It’s a poorly-written rule. And that was the least of its problems in the Masters.
2. Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee and former president of the U.S. Golf Association, said the fracas started with a call from a viewer suggesting that Tiger broke the rule. My question is, what’s the number? I mean, Augusta National is a star chamber, a secret society of the highest order, yet some Dilbert in Joliet can get right through and lodge some complaint? What’s the deal? Is this phone number published. Is it like the secret menu at In-and-Out Burger, another insufferable institution?
This call-in format for golf has got to stop. Golf isn’t self-policing. It’s all-policing. It’s like if our peace officers abdicated their responsibilities and we announced that everyone would turn themselves in for speeding tickets. Except anyone can turn in anyone. So it’s all-policing. And it’s nonsense.
3. The Masters competition committee took the caller’s suggestion, studied Tiger’s actions and ruled there was no penalty. Go back and read that again. The committee studied the actions and ruled no penalty. Then Tiger had a press conference, said he backed up two yards and swung away, trying to hit the same almost-perfect shot as the one that hit the flagstick and rolled into the pond.
Ridley said a CBS Sports official called him to alert him to the Tiger interview on ESPN. Armed with the information that Tiger admitting to moving back — not dropping the ball in the divot, in other words — the committee reconvened and decided a two-stroke penalty was in order. The committee could have disqualified Tiger but settled on the relatively new rule that allows for a two-stroke penalty when an incorrect scorecard is signed inadvertently.
Well, wasn’t that big of the Masters. That puts golf one step this side of the Puritans in Salem, Mass. The Puritans would hang a millstone around a woman’s neck and dump her into the lake. If she survived, she was a witch and was burned. If she drowned, she was exonerated. Dead, but exonerated.
Same with golfers. Here’s why Tiger signed an incorrect scoreboard. Because the Masters competition committee told him no violation had occurred. Then to come back, after the sun has set and risen, and say, we’ve reconsidered, well, that’s a mess of a sport.