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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Friday, July 15

2016 Open and Wacky Golf Rules

I’ve been watching the Open at Royal Troon, with its gorse and fescue and coffin bunkers and nearby railroad tracks, listening to the Brits chortle over the wind and rain in the second round. “Oh, yes,” they say, “this is truly the way golf is supposed to be played. None of that sissy stuff they play in the States. We want our links course weather to blow and rain and sleet, maybe even snow a bit. Let’s see who’s man enough to get through it.” Well, that’s what they had today—maybe no sleet or snow, but enough wind and rain to bring even the best players to their knees.
Golf is such a peculiar sport in so many peculiar ways and with so many peculiar rules. Golf differs from all other sports (or all I can think of) in that the individual competitors are their own referees. If one breaks a rule, one polices oneself and takes his medicine (penalty strokes depending on the violation). If a player inadvertently moves his ball, not matter how slightly and no matter that no one else saw it move, he calls a 2-stroke penalty on himself. Think about it. Would a basketball player call a foul on himself or give the ball to the other team because he had traveled? I don’t think so. Would a baseball player admit that he’d only trapped a fly ball and not really caught it, even though the referees ruled it a catch? I don’t think so. Would a football player admit that he’d caught a pass but had a toe on the sideline, even though the referees ruled it a catch? I don’t think so.

In the old days of golf, before the presence of all the television cameras zooming in on all shots and players, the players themselves called the rules infractions. Now, anyone watching a tournament from the comfort of his home can call in to question questionable behavior. I remember Paul Azinger in 1991 at the Doral Ryder Open. He was hitting a shot out of the water in a hazard, his feet both in the water. He instinctively kicked back with his foot before hitting the ball. A viewer called in questioning whether Azinger had moved a loose impediment under his foot. The film was reviewed and he was penalized. Nearly all fans of golf are familiar with Craig Stadler’s booboo in 1987 at the San Diego Open. To preserve his trousers when he knelt on both knees to hit a shot from under a tree branch, he placed a towel on the ground. Woops! Two strokes for building a stance to save his pants. Probably one of the craziest rulings involved Justin Rose in 2013 at the BMW Championship. His practice swing cut a divot which struck his ball and moved it. Penalty. Then there’s Tiger, who probably more than any other golfer, always had countless cameras recording his every twitch. In the 2013 Masters on the par-5 fifteenth hole, his second shot struck the flagstick and bounced back into the front pond. He had two options: go back as far as he wanted on a line keeping the point where it went in the hazard and the flag; or drop a ball as near as possible to the spot where he’d hit his last shot. What did he do? Even the intelligent Tiger can be guilty of mental errors. He mixed up the two options and dropped his ball two yards behind the spot of his previous shot. Bang! Two-stroke penalty.

There are obviously many other examples of inadvertent rules infractions, but recent rulings show how silly some rules of golf can be. Dustin Johnson in the PGA at Whistling Straits in 2010 was assessed a 2-stroke penalty for grounding his club in what he assumed was a sandy patch in the rough where any number of people in the gallery had walked through it. Uh uh, officials said. That was a bunker even though it didn’t look like a bunker. Without that penalty, Johnson would have been in a playoff for the title. And again, in this year’s U.S. Open, Johnson thought his ball had moved as he was preparing to putt. He told a rules official that he hadn’t addressed the ball (put the putter down behind the ball) and thus didn’t believe he had caused the ball to move. Play resumed and several holes later he was told that the situation was being reviewed and that he may or may not be assessed a 2-stroke penalty. So he played the last five holes not knowing what his score was. He was given the penalty, but thank goodness for Dustin Johnson that despite that penalty he still won the championship.

In this year’s Women’s U.S. Open, Anna Nordqvist, in a 3-hole playoff with Brittany Lang, was given a 2-stroke penalty for touching the sand in a bunker on her back stroke. A slow motion zoom lens showed one or two grains of sand had moved. One or two grains. So tiny that no one, not even she, noticed. But the all-seeing camera noticed. It seems inappropriate that such a minor infraction can have such a major impact on winning and losing. But rules are rules and there are no distinctions between a whole lot wrong and a little bit wrong. Just like one can’t be just a little bit pregnant. Anna Nordqvist broke a rule by just a little bit. Was it her fault? You bet it was. Why did she have her club that close to the sand when she addressed the ball? Next time you watch golf on the tube, pay attention to players hitting out of bunkers. All of them address the ball with the club nowhere near the sand. Anna, you should learn to do the same. No sense in being a little bit pregnant.

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