Well, it did not take long for the bill to come due – the cost of the mass capitulation of the Golf Establishment to Tiger Woods, when it found a way to re-invent the Rules of Golf in such a way as to allow Woods to remain in the Masters after a sequence of events that probably would have led to the disqualification of any other player – and should have disqualified him. As I warned, once you establish the precedent that the Rules of Golf, like the US Constitution (as understood by the “living document” crowd), can be re-interpreted at any time so as to yield whatever outcome is deemed most useful by the people in power, golf is no longer the same game.
In two simple but grand gestures, Woods has reduced the rest of professional golf to the equivalent of Bonasera, the undertaker, begging the Godfather to “be my friend,” to which the Godfather agrees – on the condition that the undertaker become permanently owned by the Godfather and committed to granting whatever future favors may be asked of him.
- First, Woods effectively gamed the hapless Sergio Garcia on Saturday by pulling a club during Garcia’s address (generating a predictable, raucous crowd-reaction that wrecked Garcia’s concentration), and later excused his conduct by claiming the marshals had told him that Garcia had already hit his shot. Woods’s claim highlighted his breach of golf etiquette in failing to do his best to keep aware of his fellow competitor’s position on the course and to avoid affecting that person’s game. (It also resulted in an argument among various marshals as to whether Woods’s claim was even factually correct).
- Second, on Sunday Woods pulled an even bigger stunt: after hitting his drive into a water hazard on 14, Woods, amid lots of discussion about the point at which the ball had crossed the boundary of the hazard, quickly took a drop in an extremely favorable location that was described by commentator Johnny Miller – possibly the last honest man in big-money golf – as “really, really borderline.” This time, Woods’s version of The Dog Ate My Homework (i.e., It is always someone else’s fault) was that his playing companion, Casey Wittenberg, had told him the drop location was OK. Wittenberg, a fringe player striving to maintain fully-exempt status on the tour, was probably the last person on earth to whom one would have looked for an honest and objective opinion, under the circumstances; he was not about to say anything to Woods other than the equivalent of, “be my friend.”
So it has taken just a couple of weeks for the bill to come due, for Woods to tell the Tour in no uncertain terms, It is my Tour and I can do whatever I want and from now on the PGA, the USGA, the Masters, the whole golf establishmentcan just get out of my way. I do not need to observe golf etiquette, I do not need to seek or wait for a ruling on where to drop my ball, I do not need to worry about signing an incorrect scorecard, I OWN YOU. You need me more than I need you, and I no longer really care about what you – or anyone else other than Nike and my other sponsors – think of me.
And that is what you get when you decide, as the Masters rules committee did, that the Rules of Golf (and the USGA Decisions that interpret those rules, such as Decision 33-7/4.5) can be twisted and re-interpreted and selectively ignored in order to achieve a “fair” result that coincidentally happens to keep a favored player in the tournament. Gee, that did not take long.