Golf Fans Are The Worst, And Golf Is OK With It

We know that someone ratted on Tiger for taking an incorrect drop after his pinseeker on 15 found the drink on Friday afternoon. But why do they do it, and how does the tournament handle the tips?

Masters officials won't reveal who tipped them off to Tiger's drop (we can safely assume it was not the former Mr. Lindsey Vonn), but they did reveal that it was a friend of a rules official and he communicated the infraction via text message. Why is this allowed? Because of the "integrity of the game" and a karmic idiom: "the rub of the green."

Golf, as we heard Nick Faldo say, is self-policed for the most part. Like pick-up basketball, players call out violations on themselves or their playing-partners and they all live with that black-and-white code. But for some reason, golf fans and viewers think they are part of this equation because Golf allows them to carry on this way. As The Times story notes, "[l]ooking the other way when a rule is breached would be considered offensive to the game’s integrity."

If a viewer noticed something and didn't call it in, he would have to live out the rest of his days with the shame of knowing he looked the other way. To avoid such a fate, and to honor the game he loves so much, he tracks down the various publicly available phone numbers to tournaments, golf courses and/or golfing associations and reports Craig Stadler for "illegally 'buil[ding] a stance,'" at the 1987 Masters a 1987 tournament in San Diego when he placed a towel down on the ground so he wouldn't soil his pants while hitting a shot from his knees. Because of this sense of duty, golf is the only sport that entertains, and takes action as result of, viewer submitted violations.

“There are a lot of people out there that know a lot about the rules, or think they know a lot about the rules,” said Fred Ridley, the Masters chairman for competition committees. “It creates more work for us, but we do look at every one of these.”

...

At Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters, any rules infraction phone call coming through the main switchboard is sent to the tournament headquarters office.

The details of the call are recorded and documented with the specifics of the suspected violation scrupulously noted and then passed on to the Masters rules committee. Each case is investigated, which can involve interviewing the player or players involved, until the situation is resolved as groundless or worthy of a penalty. “The players are under a microscope, and people watch their golf closely,” Ridley said. “And when they contact us, we make a determination.”

Of course, Tiger wasn't actually screwed over by the text messaging fan/friend of an official; he accidentally screwed himself in the post-round interview with Tom Rinaldi after officials had already decided that his drop was in "close proximity" to his previous spot. Thus the rub of the green was preserved.

Attention, Second-Guessers: Golf Takes Calls (and Texts) [NY Times]

Photo Credit: Getty