Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tiger....Do The Right Thing

By the time you are reading this, we will know if Tiger Woods disqualifies himself from the Masters Golf Tournament. What we do know is that he has been assessed a two-stroke penalty. If you are a fan of golf, you saw it or have seen the replay. I recorded yesterday’s round and fast forwarded through it late last night. I stopped it to watch Tiger, Rickie Fowler, Brent Snedeker and, of course, Fred Couples hit their shots. I saw Tiger get a bad break on 15 when his ball hit the flag and ricocheted back into the water. I watched him take a drop a few steps back from his original shot, hit another great one and salvage bogey. As it turns out, Tiger violated a part of rule 27-1 (At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, PLAY A BALL AS NEARLY AS POSSIBLE AT THE SPOT FROM WHICH THE ORIGINAL BALL WAS LAST PLAYED). I am not a golf rules Nazi and besides I figured that Tiger and his caddie knew the rules. Tiger clearly did not know the rule and even talked about his intent to drop the ball a bit farther back during his post-round interview.

The USGA recently established a rule to cover the post round rules violations that are discovered via HDTV reviews. For example, a ball moving slightly or a player barely grounding his club in a sand trap. Violations that a player might not even be aware of when they sign their scorecard. Rather than DQ the player for signing a wrong scorecard (because he did not assess a penalty on himself), the USGA now imposes a 2-stroke penalty. It’s called the HDTV rule. The USGA decided to impose that rule on Tiger this morning. Clearly, this is a case where one did not need multiple HDTV replays to determine there had been a rules violation. Tiger even told us what he did, of course, not realizing that it was a rules violation.

While Tiger did not intentionally violate the rule, he violated it nonetheless. It’s unfortunate that someone did not bring it to his attention before he signed his scorecard. But that’s golf and it is a sport built on integrity. In recent years, that integrity has come under fire for a variety of reasons: belly putters, longer distance golf balls, ever improving equipment, the grooves on irons, performance enhancing drugs, etc etc. Golf is not the clean, pristine sport it portrays itself to be. It is big business with big bills to pay. But there is still something special about a sport where players play by the rules and will even call penalties on themselves. And this is the Masters. The holy cathedral of golf (at least on this continent.) The place Bobby Jones built. He was the ultimate sportsman and a man of honor, who is noted for calling a penalty on himself one time that ultimately cost him a big tournament.

Tiger Woods has been through a lot in recent years. His personal failings are well-documented and he has struggled to regain his game as well as what is left of his reputation. His game has returned and many fans have forgiven him. We Americans love to tear down our heroes and build them back up. We thrive on stories of recovery and redemption. Tiger now faces a crossroads on his journey to recovery and redemption. He has been given a moment in time in front of the world to do the right thing. Most of us who are on such a journey, trudge along in pain and silence and anonymity; carrying only the memory of our wrongdoings and those whom we have wronged. We don’t get the opportunity to do the right thing in front of millions. Just as being a high profile public figure is a curse when things go wrong, it can be a blessing when things go right. Tiger, you're still away, it’s you're shot. Do the right thing, for yourself and for the rest of us.

(Post Script)
Shortly after writing this, it has been reported that Tiger's drop on 15 was reviewed by the tournament rules officials prior to the completion of his round and they did not consider it a violation. Only after additonal information (probably rules-savvy viewer emails and tweets) and Tiger's post round comments did they conclude that there had been a violation. Thus, Tiger did not knowingly sign his scorecard in error and therefore should not be subject to DQ, just the two stroke penalty. All I can say is in reference to my comment above in paragraph three: "It is a big business with big bills to pay."

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