A chorus of stupidity cascaded across the golf world this weekend over a rules violation, and the whole situation couldn’t have been more perfectly ironic.
On Friday at Augusta Tiger Woods broke the rules when he took a drop not “as nearly as possible” to where he’d played his third shot on the 15th hole.
He broke the rule because he signed for a 71 instead of factoring in the drop penalty before signing. Tiger claims to have confused two rules, which lead to the mix-up.
The decision was initially cleared by the rules committee, but was later revisited, and overnight they changed their minds, and he was docked two shots as a penalty.
Everyone is up in arms over this because up until two years ago signing an incorrect scorecard would mean immediate disqualification. But a recent rule amendment (33-7) has allowed for flexibility in these cases. This has now easily become the precedent setting case.
What’s so perfect about the way this drama is unfolding is the high profile cast and setting. Tiger, Augusta, and old Nick Faldo making his case to be king of the crazies.
I like Nick Faldo. He was a great golfer in his hey day, and a well-spoken guy, but after watching him and David Feherty debate the ongoing debacle on CBS I think we can safely say he’s a guy not worth listening to.
Effectively, the Masters officials decided to employ this new rule that was designed exactly for this type of situation – where increased scrutiny lead to punishment.
Yet here was Faldo, railing against the new order of golf, frothing at the mouth over how the history of the game was being violated.
He said that Woods, like so many players before him who signed an incorrect card, should be held to account like they were, and disqualified from this year’s tournament, calling the situation “black and white” (an interesting turn of phrase).
Yet, Faldo seems oblivious to the grey areas. Back 20, 30, 40 years ago cameras didn’t hover behind players documenting their every move like today. Furthermore, the amount of scrutinizing eyes has grown as you can watch the Masters from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection now. Anyone can call in and report a violation.
Faldo’s opinion of the event immediately started losing credibility when he referred to “the world tweeting thing”. His whole episode showed a dated, out of touch viewpoint that is not good for golf.
Faldo spoke of the need to be caretakers of the game, and passing along the traditions to the next generation, and it’s certainly admirable and well intentioned I’m sure. But such a staunch defense of the old guard is simply contributing to golf’s image as a staid, elitist, and inaccessible game.
That he was preaching this drivel from the confines of Butler Cabin made this all the more hilarious, and ironic.
Augusta National is one of the great bastions of conservatism. It’s a golf course that only started admitting women as members a year ago. It also once had a policy that all caddies be black. So that the rules committee at this course, of all places, chose to change their tack is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Some will argue this is a case of Tiger getting special treatment – but it doesn’t matter. The precedent is now set, whether Faldo likes it or not.
But what makes this so excruciatingly dumb is that all of this is being done above board. This is the proper way to interpret the rule, but just the first high-profile case, so a few cages were bound to be rattled.
To his credit though, later on Faldo seemed to have accepted that he was wrong and softened on his stance, which is a respectable (and difficult) thing to do.
But the whole episode showed that sentiments like his are still pervasive throughout the game, and there are no doubt others deriding this is as a violation.
I’m less inclined call it a violation, since it looks more like evolution. And watching golf evolve – in Georgia of all places – is a remarkable thing to see.