Sunday, April 14, 2013

The 15th Club

("Woods Gets A Penalty But Is Not Disqualified")

The sport of golf has a 15th club it carries, a stick up its proverbial backside. It has rules which punish without thought or reason, explanation or context. Its history is littered with travesties of justice.

45 years ago at this very tournament, the Masters, Robert Di Vicenzo made a birdie 3 on the 17th hole of the final round. Only he didn't because his playing partner, in charge of the scorecard, miscounted. The 4 that was written down, and signed for as correct by Roberto meant that instead of his being tied for the lead and headed to a playoff, he "lost" by a single stroke. His most famous of quotes, "what a stupid I am" stands as a testament to his dignity and grace and as a signature moment in the idiocy of unbending application of the sacrosanct rules of golf.

In more recent years we have witnessed crucial penalties caused by the brushing of a leaf in a backswing while in a hazard and for grounding a club in a "sandtrap" that had less sand in it than your shoe after a day at the beach.

Just in this tournament, a 14 year old boy, trying to make history not only as its youngest participant ever, but almost miraculously as one to make it into the weekend rounds, was given a one stroke penalty for taking too much time in contemplation. What a miscarriage if he had been sent packing for allowing a  few moments of extra thought.

Tiger Woods plays golf before more watchful eyes than anyone else on this planet. Even if there was an intent to bend the rules to his advantage, which there clearly was not, there is no opportunity in Tiger's universe for anything to go unnoticed.  Probably a little flummoxed after watching a well played stroke end in such disaster, Woods made a boo boo. All the rules gurus at the most prestigious of all tournament venues, failed to find fault with his actions when they occurred.

Golf takes itself way too seriously. Nick Faldo called on Woods to "do the manly thing" and withdraw. Why? The actions on #15 did not warrant disqualification any more than Di Vicenzo's math error mandated that he be kept from the opportunity to put on the green jacket. Bring in some sanity, and let the particulars of the circumstances dictate fair and reasonable outcomes.

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