More observations on why Golf Is Not A Fair Game: Last Sunday, not just one but two professional golf tournaments were decided by the fates, not the performances of the contenders.
Exhibit A was the click of a smart-phone camera in the middle of Jordan Spieth’s backswing on the first hole of his playoff against two other competitors, a distraction that ruined his swing and knocked him out of the playoff. Yes, Tiger Woods gained fame for his unprecedented talent for terminating his swing under such circumstances, but in general, that is impossible even on the Tour. In this case, it cost the impressive Mr. Spieth the tournament. This is not a suggestion that the Tour should join with The Masters in rejecting the 21st century and forbidding phones and cameras on the premises, merely a rueful observation on one of the downsides to the combining of technological cleverness with human rudeness.
Exhibit B, on the other hand, involved a problem that yields more easily to a solution. Stacy Lewis, as impressive on the women’s tour as is Mr. Spieth on the men’s, lost her playoff in a “major” tournament because, after striking her first two shots perfectly on the par-5 18th hole, she found her ball in the middle of a manicured fairway but perched atop a sand-filled divot hole, the one type of lie from which even the best players cannot hit the kind of accurate shot needed to get it close to the hole on a difficult green. Not surprisingly, Ms. Lewis, one of the best wedge players on the LPGA tour, could not even hit her 100-yard approach shot onto the green.
One imagines that Old Tom Morris, Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, and possibly even the bow-tied eccentrics sporting the USGA blazers, loved both these outcomes, because each proved once again that golf is that wacky, unpredictable old game that, like their vision of life, is really not fair at all.
Speaking for the loyal opposition, I disagree when it comes to divot holes on the pro tours. For amateurs, I am all for playing-it-as-it-lies, mainly because it expedites play and provides a simple way of removing temptation from those who would rather cheat to win than play by the rules and lose. But for the pros, the solution to the Stacy Lewis situation has been presented and is quite well-known: divot holes, until grown over with fairway turf, should be considered “ground under repair,” meaning one can lift and drop on solid turf without penalty. In all sports, I want to watch excellence in fair competition, the less luck the better. As for the temptation to abuse the expanded GUR rule, I wouldn’t worry about the pros, as they know they are always on someone’s camera.