It happened again. It was worse than the time before. It’s insulting to the professionals who play the game and it needs to end now. This practice by tournament officials and professional tour directors, of allowing spectators to phone in rules violations after a day’s play has concluded is egregious, and harmful to the game of golf.
Lexi Thompson deserved an honest chance to win the 2017 ANA Inspiration, as did Dustin Johnson at the 2016 US Open, and Anna Nordqvist at the 2016 US Open. It wouldn’t be difficult to make this about gender, but I will skip that premise and move on to a universal one: the golfers are the referees, and sometimes they miss things. You and I are not the referees, so let’s stop acting like them.
Why I’m currently embarrassed by golf’s purported judges
In golf, members of a group monitor themselves and each other. They recognize infractions and hold their own selves and each other, accountable. This doesn’t happen in other sports, because there is often direct contact between athletes (football, basketball, rugby, soccer), an inability to see the opponent (swimming) and high-speed pace of execution (running, auto racing, basketball.)
Golf is methodical. It is chess on grass, tai chi with clubs, yoga with ball flight. Golfers watch each other when they compete. They do this because they know that rules officials are brought in for two reasons: a rule is unknown, or a discrepancy exists. And golfers miss things.
I attended an NHL hockey game on Sunday. Three men in pinstripes skated within mere feet of the world’s finest hockey players, and those pinstriped men missed infractions. I know this for two reasons: the hometown crowd screamed for justice when the (missed) call went against its team, and the same crowd giggled and sighed in relief when the (missed) call aided its team. This happens in all team sports.
At no juncture did those pinstriped men ever check their Twitter feeds, their email accounts, or their text messages, for assistance from the crowd or the television viewers. They wouldn’t, because it would be a sure sign that they were not doing their professional job. And referees, umpires, judges, and arbiters miss things.
Who are these people?
I want to know, who are these people? These viewers and purported fans of the game of golf, who feel that it is their place in life to atone for a missed call. Were they wronged in their competitive youth? Did they even have a competitive youth? Are these the people who drive the exact speed limit in the left lane, a road space known for passing, to teach other drivers a lesson?
I imagine that the person who phoned in the Lexi Thompson infraction is having one of two Mondays. The first is an awful sense of regret, an awareness that what she/he did was horribly unfair. After all, how many other infractions went unnoticed, unavenged, this weekend? How many more will pass that way in each tournament this season, and next, and the following?
The alternative, is that this small soul will regale her/his friends with tales of how she/he made a difference, made an impact on an major golf tournament, all in the name of justice. Whose justice? Jackie Pung’s justice? Roberto De Vicenzo’s justice? Golf is littered with situations in which a lack of logic is applied with appalling confidence and regularity. And these mavens of unjustifiable justice clap each other on the back, applaud the damage they do, and move on. And golfers miss things.
Television, you wretched infiltrator
The television provides an unequaled viewing experience. Many are the professional scribes who never leave the confines of the press tent; they know that the feed they receive over the screen is second to none, by a wide margin. And there’s the kernel: it is a viewing experience. It is not a tool for viewers, fans, haters, to impact the outcome of an event. Why on earth someone not in the field of battle, would think that her/his opinion matters is beyond me and simply ludicrous. I love seeing slowed-down sequences, invisible to the natural eye. I don’t consider them useful for rules decisions.
What is the other problem with television? Not every golfer is on it. How many players finish their rounds early, play themselves into contention, but are never scrutinized by announcers, denizens of rules trailers and the viewing public? The notion of allowing this type of interference is unfair at best, and illogical at worst. Why should one player, or group of players, be watched more thoughtfully and provocatively by hundreds of thousands of judges than others?
Parents, act like parents!
Have you heard this uttered by police officers, teachers, and other servants of our world? They want parents to resist the urge to be friends with their offspring, and to step up and hold their children accountable, punishing them if necessary. It’s time for the leaders of associations and tours to start acting like parents, with one, elementary tenet: eliminate outside influence from the game.
Mike Davis, USGA
Mike Whan, LPGA
Ivan Khodabaksh, Ladies European Tour
Jay Monahan, PGA Tour
William Payne, Masters
George O’Grady, European Tour
Martin Slumbers, Royal and Ancient golf association
These are the seven directors, leaders, executives, who must take a stand today, and tell the golfing world that no longer will this type of intrusion be acknowledged, much less venerated. No phone calls will be taken, no tweets, texts, snaps nor instas will be examined, in the name of taking away the responsibility of the professional golfer to do her and his job of holding self and fellow competitors accountable.
Lexi Thompson at 2013 US Women’s Open