Golf to ignore the rule officials watching at home on TV

R&A and the USGA along with main professional tours to adopt new video review protocols

A two-shot penalty was handed out to Lexi Thompson for failing to replace her ball properly, which was picked up on slow-motion replay. She subsequently lost a play-off for the ANA Inspiration. Photograph: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

A two-shot penalty was handed out to Lexi Thompson for failing to replace her ball properly, which was picked up on slow-motion replay. She subsequently lost a play-off for the ANA Inspiration. Photograph: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

 

Those self-appointed couch potatoes who double as rules officials with one hand on the television remote control and the other punching numbers into the telephone have lost a job: golf’s ruling bodies, the R&A and the USGA, along with all the main professional tours, have decided not to listen to any viewers’ calling in citing possible rules violations by players.

Although the next updated Rules of Golf isn’t scheduled until January 2019, a working group led by the two governing bodies, but also including the European Tour, the PGA Tour, the LPGA, the LET and the PGA of America, has agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying to the rules of golf.

From January 1st, 2018, the tour bodies have decided to assign officials to monitor video broadcasts of a tournament to help identify and resolve rules issues as they arise; and to discontinue any steps to “facilitate or consider viewer call-ins” as any part of the rules decision process.

This practice of television viewers calling in to allege rules infringements has been an ongoing issue in the sport, most notably at last year’s ANA Inspiration – a Major on the women’s circuit – when a two-shot penalty was handed out to Lexi Thompson for failing to replace her ball properly, which was picked up on slow-motion replay. She subsequently lost a play-off for the title.

Disqualified

Other incidents involved Tiger Woods at the 2013 US Masters – when he was assessed a two shot penalty for dropping the ball in the wrong place after his approach shot to the 15th found a watery grave – while, back in 1991, Paul Azinger was disqualified from the Doral Open after a television viewer informed officials the player had kicked coral away from a water hazard when taking a drop.

These latest moves follow a decision earlier this year, in April, to limit the use of video through the introduction of a “reasonable judgement” standard and a “naked eye” standard.

In addition, golf’s rule-making bodies have approved the adoption of a local rule (from January 1st, 2018) to eliminate the additional two stroke penalty for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player is unaware of the penalty.

Of the move to turn a deaf ear to any calls from viewers, David Rickman, the executive director-governance of the R&A, said: “This has clearly become an important issue in the sport that we felt we should address at this stage ahead of the implementation of the updates Rules of Golf in 2019. We have concluded that whilst players should continue to be penalised for all breaches of the rules during a competition, including any that come to light after the scorecard is returned, an additional penalty for the score card error is not required.”

In elaborating, Thomas Pagel of the USGA said: “The message is, as a fan, enjoy watching the game and the best players in the world, but also have the confidence that the committee in charge of the competition have the rules handled . . . let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players to those responsible for running the tournament.”

Breakthrough Major success

Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia – last week voted the European Tour’s player of the year – has been voted as Player of the Year by the International Association of Golf Writers, in a season where he won three times including a breakthrough Major success in the US Masters.

The 37-year-old Spaniard last won the award in 1999, in his breakthrough season on tour when still a teenager. “It is something that is very difficult to achieve, so it’s always a pleasure,” said Garcia, who broke the duopoly exercised by Rory McIlroy (2012, 2014 and 2015) and Henrik Stenson (2013 and 2016) of recent years.

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