Wednesday, September 1

Rules Fatigue Grips Golf World

IF JIM FURYK’S CELL PHONE didn’t lose power last week at The Barclays, would the PGA Tour have suspended its pro-am policy for the rest of the season? In a word, no. I don’t think so. No one would be talking about the rule and the so-called unfairness of it. Popular, headline-grabbing Phil Mickelson wouldn’t be sounding off and the PGA Tour wouldn’t have a PR problem.

(Photo: Dustin Johnson is in a bunker, and knows it / Gordons, Flickr)

Furyk is a good guy, a gamer who fulfills his tour obligations. His cell phone battery failed him. That, and his lack of a backup. To play the PGA Tour, you need to guard against equipment failure on and off the course. In addition to carrying those three or four wedges, you’d be wise to have two alarms.

It was an odd incident, just like the Dustin Johnson bunker incident at the PGA Championship, and Juli Inkster’s donut DQ at the Safeco Classic, and last weekend’s cheating allegations at the LPGA event in Canada, which is a different kettle of fish.

People are fed up. Stupid rules. A guy doesn’t know he’s in a bunker. A gal is trying to warm up after a 25-minute delay in the middle of her round. A guy overslept and showed up five minutes late for the pro-am. Rules, rules, rules.

The golf world is ready to throw the book at the rules book. Granted, golf does have some odd rules. And the PGA Tour does make up its own policies concerning things like pro-ams to protect its interests. But it’s not like this stuff is new.

What if this last month has simply been an odd confluence of rules violations affecting name players? Unfortunate, yes. Time to throw out the rules? Maybe not so fast. The bunker fiasco was by far the worst situation. The PGA of America needs to think hard about how they’ll conduct future championships at Whistling Straits.

As far as the PGA Tour pro-ams, here’s what Stewart Cink told Michael Whitmer of Boston.com:
I’d say less than 50 percent of the players really understand how important they are, and that’s a shame. And despite the tour’s efforts, I think that trend is going down. I don’t think players make the connection between the pro-am and the support. We aren’t born into this world with the entitlement of playing golf on the PGA Tour. All this happens through hard work and sponsorship, and we have to be attractive to business sponsors who want to put their name and their money behind us.
Did the PGA Tour buckle due to the backlash? Did Dustin get shafted by an unusual local rule? Should Juli have known to stay away from donuts?

I say yes to all three. And all because the past month in tour golf has been as odd as some of the rules.

−The Armchair Golfer

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