Rob Bolton

The 19th Hole

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Dropping the Ball?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Ryan O'Sullivan, Columnist/Contributor (@RyanGolfBlogger)


Entire field must be protected.


The PGA TOUR is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to video evidence and assessing penalties to players, but there is one clear answer. And make no mistake; this solution will cause a big problem at some point.


Every time you turn on a football game, a close play is reviewed. Basketball officials will go to the monitor to verify if a ball left a player’s hand before the clock struck zero in determining if a basket should count. MLB has adopted review in very specific circumstances. NASCAR had to deal with a controversial finish to the last race of their regular season and used audio of drivers talking to their crew as part of the evidence for an eventual penalty that altered their entire Chase.


So, obviously the PGA TOUR should use whatever technology necessary to assess penalties when the evidence is clear. Right?


Not so fast.


Every example above has at least one thing in common that the PGA TOUR does not. The entirety of the event is caught on camera and is able to be reviewed. It wouldn’t be fair if only the fourth quarter of a football game was reviewable. The points count just as much in the first three quarters as they do in the fourth. That means, like it or not, it’s not fair for Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or anyone inside the top three on the back nine of a tournament on Sunday afternoon to have to face scrutiny that the rest of the field does not.


In golf, players are supposed to police themselves for the most part. They are also supposed to protect the integrity of the field by ensuring the players in their group are properly adhering to the rules.


Here’s an example that clears the muddy water for me:


In speaking with a 2012 member of the PGA TOUR, I was told of a story that makes Tiger Woods’ case. A friend of the ’12 TOUR member was playing in a TOUR event with a TOUR winner who is fairly well-known. On a green on the front nine in an early round of the tournament where there were no cameras, the lesser-known player witnessed the veteran reach to mark his ball. When the veteran did, it appeared that he flipped his coin ahead of the ball and closer to the hole, assuming no one noticed, thus intentionally gaining an advantage. Cheating.


At round’s end, the player that witnessed the alleged infraction refused to sign the offender’s scorecard. A rules official was brought in, and the offending player denied the accusation. Because it was one man’s word against another. With no evidence, the score was accepted by the tournament as recorded by the potentially offending player.


Video evidence can be used only if every stroke that every player in the field takes is captured in every round. The field is adequately protected from Woods because every shot he plays is captured by a camera. Woods can’t be protected from what a Tour grad does on the fourth hole at Torrey Pines North Course in the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open.



Mike Glasscott, Columnist (@GlassWGCL)


Replay or not to replay.


No thanks.


It’s a simple as that.


Get rid of it.




Not every player has a camera on them during their rounds.


It’s not fair, simple as that.


The players who are the most popular or are leading on Saturdays and Sundays are subjected to a different set of “rules” than the players who tee off first and end before these guys get to the range. They aren’t subjected to the extra eyes during their rounds so I’ll argue that the premium players shouldn’t be subjected to it during their rounds.


Life isn’t fair but if golf is about playing the same tees, same pins and using the same rule book, then be consistent with that belief. Players that tee off at 8:00 a.m. in nice weather get lucky (i.e. “luck of the draw”); players who play late have to deal with spike marks, weather and galleries.


But they all use the same tees, same hole locations and same rule book. They don’t move the tees up because the weather is bad. They don’t move the hole locations because the greens dry out. That’s part of golf.


Instant replay being used to penalize players is not part of golf unless every golfer has cameras with their groupings just like the leaders and premium players do on the weekend.


Since that’s not possible due to financial concerns, there’s no point subjecting certain players to a set of rules or decisions that is not available to each golfer in the field.


It’s as simple as that.


Since simplicity has no part in society, especially when millions of dollars are involved, this issue won’t go quietly because instant replay and video cameras aren’t going to be banned at golf courses and golf tournaments.


People who are armchair policeman will call, tweet, email until their fingers fall off because they want justice.


Let them call, tweet and email. There’s no harm in that.


There is harm if the entire field is not protected by the same set of rules.


The way the system works today, the field is not playing by the same set of rules.


Replay OUT.


Rob Bolton is Senior Editor/Writer for Rotoworld’s golf content. He can be reached via email at and on Twitter.
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