Archive for Saturday, October 22, 2005

Commentary: Golf ‘police’ are out of jurisdiction

October 22, 2005


— The call was made to the NCAA on Thursday to report a blatant rules violation.

That's right, I couldn't live with myself any longer. I watched the Southern Cal-Notre Dame game Saturday and clearly saw USC's Reggie Bush push his quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone for the winning touchdown with seven seconds left. This was a clear violation of Article 2.b. of the NCAA football rules manual, which states: "The runner may not grasp a teammate, and no other player of his team shall grasp, push or charge into him to assist him in forward progress."

Obviously, Southern Cal should be disqualified and the game immediately awarded to Notre Dame.

"Well, that's not exactly how our playing rules work," explained Ty Halpin, the NCAA's associate director for football rules. " ... Sports writers don't have much influence on how we enforce our rules."

Except in golf, as evidenced by the absurdity of what happened to 16-year-old phenom Michelle Wie in her first professional tournament last weekend. Wie was disqualified when Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger reported a day after the fact that Wie took an illegal drop on a hole at the Samsung World Championship.

This is not meant as a slam on Bamberger, although any golf writer worth his weight in Marriott pillow mints should have better things to do than measuring whether Wie's drop from a bush was three inches closer to the hole than it should have been. No, this is meant more to illustrate how dopey golf rules really are.

Can you imagine the Super Bowl being decided because Jerry Greene phoned in the Tuck Rule from his couch?

Or the Angels winning Game 2 of the American League Championship Series because Tony Kornheiser overruled home-plate umpire Doug Eddings and called A.J. Pierzynski out on strikes?

The most outmoded and inane rule of all is the one that requires golfers to keep their own score and sign their own scorecards. This is the rule that got Wie disqualified because she didn't add the two-stroke penalty for unknowingly making an illegal drop and therefore signed an incorrect scorecard. It's the rule that kept Mark Roe from having a chance to win the British Open in 2003. And most notable of all, it cost Argentina's Robert De Vicenzo a spot in a Masters playoff after he signed a wrong scorecard in 1968.

Afterward, De Vicenzo uttered one of the most famous quotes in golf history: "What a stupid I am."

Actually, what a stupid rule it is - especially in this day and age of electronic scorekeeping and instant Internet access. We have elaborate Jumbotrons at football games that update statistics instantaneously. We can program computers to defeat the best chess players in the world. But in the billion-dollar industry that is professional golf, players are expected to keep their own score with a stub pencil and piece of paper.

Just think if you allowed college football coaches to keep their own scorebook. Jackie Sherrill never would have lost a game.

"Golf has always been grounded in integrity and honor," golfer Notah Begay explained. "Keeping your own score is a symbol of that."

An admirable stance, but an archaic one.

Golfers should worry about playing golf.

Scorekeepers should worry about keeping score.

And, most of all, sports writers should concern themselves with writing about golf tournaments.

Not officiating them.


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