On Masters Thursday a few weeks ago, the USGA and the R&A (golf’s governing bodies) snuck a rule change by the golf world that was long overdue. Golf considers itself a “gentleperson’s” (at TwoGuysTalkingSports we are non-discriminatory) game, and the individual players are tasked with the ethical duty (my law school friends are vomiting right now) to call penalties on themselves or other players in the group.
Golf can teach many lessons about life. I learned one in my first ever school match, when in a fit of rage I swung my 9-iron at a walnut in a sandtrap. Some little prick had the audacity to tell me that I had to add two strokes to the nine I had taken on the hole. At the time I was furious at the kid, but he was right, and eventually I just realized I was mad at myself for losing my cool.
But often times golfers, professionals and amateurs alike, break the Rules of Golf. It may be for something as little a ball moving after you start your swing, or it may something as blatant as hitting the wrong ball. But since the invention of the television, your regular average Joe sitting on his bean bag naked eating Cheetos can watch a PGA Tour event, see a player violate a rule, and call in a penalty on a professional golfer. Often times, this has disastrous results, and I say that these people need to get a life.
Earlier this season, Venezuelan ladies’ man Camillo Villegas was disqualified from a tournament in Hawaii when 4,700 miles away, Florida resident Dave Andrews saw him flick away some loose pieces of grass as his ball rolled down a slope back toward him. Not knowing the rules (which is a different issue altogether), Villegas violated a Rule of Golf stating that when a ball is moving you can't move anything that may be in it's way, traditionally a one-shot penalty. After his round, Villegas signed his scorecard, the official end of a player’s round.
Showing that he definitely needs to find something better to do to pass the time, Andrews tweeted the PGA Tour, the Golf Channel, and sought out the comments page on a website to notify the proper authorities. Suffice to say, the dude covered all bases here, and because Villegas had signed for a lower score than he actually shot, he was disqualified.
A similar thing happened to Padraig Harrington in Dubai two weeks later when he was disqualified after a television viewer in America notified the European Tour that his ball had moved slightly after replacing it on the green, a two-stroke penalty if it is not replaced. How many times did this guy watch this on slo-mo replay, sitting on his couch, to determine the ball moved? I can't even tell that it did. Harrington had signed a 65, and was in contention, and was disqualified.
The R&A and the USGA decided to amend the rules, stating that a player who is called out for a penalty by a television viewer will no longer be disqualified, and instead will now be assessed the appropriate penalty after the round. However, once the tournament is complete, no adjustments will be made.
While I would have liked all viewer call-ins to be disallowed, I think golf’s governing authorities got the rule right.
But I’d say this to golf fans out there that do this. You’re probably not a great golfer, and probably never will be. So get a life. Hit the range, practice your putting, or take your wife out to dinner; just find anything better to do than call in petty rules violations. You're not there, you aren't playing, and you shouldn't be able to determine something that no one on site was able to see.
There are hundreds of monitors at every golf tournament—if the rules officials there don't see it, you shouldn't be able to call in. You look like the fourth grader who tattles on his classmate for playing a hilarious prank on the teacher; you’re not funny, everyone’s going to hate you, and you’re probably going to get beat up. In fact, I’d bet Dave Andrews was that fourth grader.