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An Essay by Ron Kroichick


Are we taking this a little too seriously?


M


y annual trip to Augusta to cover the Masters is a wonderful, exhilarating week. It’s a total and com- plete immersion in golf on many levels—from the rich


history and picturesque landscape to the compelling personalities and dramatic competition.


But this immersion sometimes


precludes an everyman’s, common-sense perspective, as it clearly did on the day after…(cue scary music here)…Tiger Dropped His Golf Ball in the Wrong Place. Thankfully, as the furor engulfed Au- gusta National and debate raged over Tiger Woods’ two-stroke penalty—and his decision to keep playing in the tour- nament—my dad offered an everyman’s, common-sense perspective. “I know—it’s GOLF, with players disqualifying themselves et al.,” his e-mail read, capital letters and all. “But this all comes across to the average fan, especially non-golfers like me, as pretty ridiculous!” Father knows best. Step back and you realize he’s


right: The whole saga was absolutely ridiculous. Woods dropped his ball a few feet farther back than he should have. Tournament officials belatedly penalized him—which could have cost him a major championship—and many of us inside the golf world still reacted with horror, as if the earth had spun off its axis. Yes, Woods should have remem-


bered the rules dictate he drop the ball “as nearly as possible” to the spot where he hit his original shot. He knew the rule—he was just steaming after watching his laser-beam approach shot hit the flagstick and ricochet into the water. Most of us wouldn’t be thinking clearly at that moment either. Yes, Masters competition committee


chairman Fred Ridley and his green- jacketed friends should have spoken to Woods on Friday night, after he


RON KROICHICK covers golf for the San Francisco Chronicle.


completed his second round. (They blew it, big time.) They could have given him the penalty then and saved us all a lot of grief. Yes, the rules, as they are written in


regard to signing incorrect scorecards, probably should have prompted tournament officials to disqualify Woods. They didn’t, only because they screwed up even worse than he did (see previous paragraph). Even so, sift through all this and


here’s the end result: Woods made a mistake and got penalized. He didn’t use a banned substance. He didn’t file a lawsuit against Ridley. He didn’t threaten


ging for pass interference or (LeBron) James snapping at the referees, but when Woods says he understands a penalty that might cost him the Masters, we scream that he should have disquali- fied himself.


“I think a two-stroke penalty is


appropriately severe. Tiger said he does, too—even though it might cost him the Masters. A little common sense won’t kill the game. What happened this weekend is not an affront to golf. It’s called progress.” Rosenberg is right. As much as we all


wish Woods had followed the rules, and Ridley had realized the importance of approaching Tiger before he signed his scorecard, the game was not irreparably damaged. Not at all.


As for those suggesting Woods should have disqualified himself— well, no.


Golf sometimes gets carried away with admiring its own competitive mor- als. It’s a mostly honorable game, sure, and there probably are a higher percent- age of honest, upstanding citizens than in other major professional sports. But it’s hopelessly naïve to think there also aren’t those who would cross the line to gain an advantage (see Singh, Vijay), just like in other sports.


How close is “as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played?”


to anchor his putter against his body on Jan. 1, 2016.


Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illus-


trated, a terrific writer who covers golf only occasionally, offered an eloquent and welcome take on “The Tiger Drop,” which should be required reading for any of us who spend time inside the golf world. “All Woods did was accept the ruling,” Rosenberg wrote on si.com on April 13, as Saturday’s third round unfolded. “This would be considered exemplary sportsmanship in any other sport. We accept Peyton Manning beg-


Along the same lines, the question of whether a player deserves disqualifi- cation shouldn’t fall on the player. Talk about a conflict of interest.


Given the money involved and the


prestige of tournaments such as the Masters, golf officials can and should assert more control. They can’t resolve every last rules quandary, but they can send walking officials with each group. They can station one or two rules officials in front of the television. They can make decisions on the day of competition.


This is not saying golfers are trying to


cheat. Weird stuff happens out there, as it did at the Masters, and there are bet- ter ways to handle it. Just imagine if Woods had won this year at Augusta National, after the drop and attendant ruckus. People would have said it tainted his legacy, when winning really would have been a remarkable sporting feat—overcoming a two-shot penalty on top of a wildly unlucky break. No question, Tiger Dropped His Golf Ball in the Wrong Place. There’s a penalty for that (two strokes). Now can we move along?


SUMMER 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 63


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