May 01, 2013

Does USGA golf have a "Tiger rules" ethics problem? Golf fraud?

Don't agree w/NY Post politics, but love its headers!
That said, the Masters and USGA misplaced theirs, too.
When Jim Nantz has more cojones ...
For true golf fans, you all know about Tiger Woods' questionable drop on the 15th hole, Round 2 of the Masters, the failure for it to originally be "caught" and the initial lack of enforcement fallout on that.

Well, at the time, when I blogged about it, I speculated it was some sort of pro golfer and NOT "Joe Fan" who caught it.

And, I was right; David Eger, a Champions Tour golfer, and a tournament director with both the USGA and PGA, flagged the violation and reported it.

And, from there, the story gets ... well, ultimately, it gets kind of ugly. Because, it looks like Augusta National, on a dark interpretation, was playing with "Tiger Rules." On the darkest interpretation, it was approaching attempted golf fraud. Whether for TV ratings or whatever.  Which would be funny, given Billy Payne's bluenosed, or brown-nosed, claim that it doesn't worry about TV.

Let's start with this quote:
It is a quirk of golf that anybody may report a possible rules infraction. It helps ensure accurate scorecards. Without the public's faith in the posted scores, tournament golf as we know it would not be possible. Eger and many people like him have an intuitive and deep understanding of that underlying principle.
So, therefore, the issue of TV watchers phoning in violations? Pro golfers need to deal with it. Rule 33, whether rightly or wrongly applied at Augusta, covers the general issue of a fan calling in something that either the individual or a rules official didn't catch immediately, even after a scorecard has been signed.

However, here's where it gets more sticky.

It looks like Masters rules officials planned on doing nothing, even after Eger's phone call AND text message to an official he personally knows, and who was at Augusta. That is, until Tiger's press room statements forced the issue.
Eger said he did not have a phone number for (Fred Ridley, the tournament's competition committee chairman), but he did have one for Mickey Bradley, a veteran PGA Tour official who he knew was working the Masters. ...

Eger described the drop to Bradley. Their call ended, and Eger sent Bradley a text message about it as well. ...

Bradley immediately called Ridley and Russell, the veteran PGA Tour administrator who is on the three-man Masters competition committee that is chaired by Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and USGA president. Bradley also forwarded Eger's text to Russell and Ridley. In his text, Eger wrote that Woods "didn't appear to play by Rule 26-1-a." He wrote that he "appeared to be 3-4 feet back" from his divot mark. 

Bradley forwarded Eger's text message at 6:59 p.m. ...

In a telephone interview on (April 28), Russell said the video of the drop was reviewed before Woods finished his round. Russell said he did not review the tape because he was on the course. He also said there were roving rules officials on the 15th hole and others stationed by the green, but they were too far away to see precisely where the ball was dropped. Woods did not request any help with the drop, neither from his playing partners nor from rules officials. That's not surprising. Golf has many complicated rules, but dropping under 26-1-a is not one of them.
That's all "set-up," but important enough.

Here's the nut graf related to my headline:
At 7:30 p.m., 10 minutes after Woods completed his round, Ridley responded by text to Bradley. Regarding Eger's estimate of three to four feet, Ridley wrote that Woods "was closer than that." To look at it closer, he wrote, would be "splitting hairs." Ridley determined that Woods had done nothing wrong, so there was no point in asking him about the drop.
Sure sounds like "Tiger Woods rules," doesn't it?

That is, until more golf fans, and media (even Jim Nantz has balls!) started pushing back:
At about 10:15 on Friday night, nearly three hours after his return text to Bradley, Ridley was informed of Woods's comments to ESPN, by way of a call from Jim Nantz of CBS. The network was taping its 11:30 p.m. Masters recap show when producers saw Twitter chatter questioning the legality of Woods's drop, on the basis of the ESPN interview, during which Woods essentially incriminated himself, unknowingly indicating he made an incorrect drop when he moved back those two yards.

Nantz asked Ridley if he was aware of the internet rumblings. He was not. On the recap show, David Feherty outlined the options Woods had available to play his fifth shot on 15 and questioned whether the drop was made correctly.

After the call from Nantz, Ridley contacted Woods's agent, Mark Steinberg, who was having dinner at jam-packed T-Bonz Steakhouse on Washington Road late on Friday. Steinberg forwarded Ridley's message to Woods, and Woods met with Ridley on Saturday morning. At that time, Woods was assessed the two-shot penalty.
In other words, Masters officials were ... prepared to commit golf fraud until called out about it. Period.

But wait, that's only the first half of the ugliness.

Because behind and beyond actual or attempted frauds, there's always the cover-up.

Per ESPN, the USGA and the R&A are now saying "we think this was handled fine." Boy, butt-kissing, "Tiger rules" squared and more.

For a sport that touts self-policing on ethics, etc., this really doesn't look so good. Really doesn't look so good.

Given what we now know, per the top link, IMO, maybe 33-7 should NOT have applied. And, if we need a DQ, Fred Ridley should DQ himself from running the Masters rules committee or having any part of it.

As part of that, per the story about Eger, let's reference the old proverb — "The guilty flee when no one pursues them." Then why is Ripley "fleeing"? As he is:
Last Friday, (April 26), Eger spoke about the drop. The next day, Mickey Bradley did. On Sunday, Mark Russell did. On Monday, Steve Ethun, an Augusta National spokesman, responded to an interview request sent to Fred Ridley by e-mail. Ethun said Ridley was traveling and would be unavailable.
Yeah, "traveling." Bullshit.

Beyond that, another ESPN column reminds us that "intentionality" isn't even an issue. Theoretically, not even with the new 33-7 overlay rule. It's a basic rule, that Tiger should know. He blew it. The "Tiger rules" folks at Augusta should have disqualified him. If not, he should have DQ-ed himself.

But wait, we're not done with the black eyes yet. Go below the fold.

Vijay Singh, Mr. Deer Antler (Spray) got a pass from PGA Commissioner Tim Finchen. Finchen says that because the WADA has removed the spray from its list, even though it was on the list at the time Singh used it, there's no penalty. That said, there was an initial sanction, but that was appealed. ESPN puts that in the passive, but you know who was appealing.

Several thoughts here. Golf, as an individual sport, has no union. So, Vijay may have threatened legal action as part of that appeal. Means good luck for the USGA and the R&A on trying to ban anchored putters as that issue heats up.

Second, per Bob Harig, it doesn't look good for the WADA and its vaunted hard line on doping. Why did it remove the spray from the list? If it doesn't offer a benefit, why was it on there? And, don't just ask Vijay Singh this one. Mr. Deer Antler Felon, Ray Lewis, when not becoming a football retirement punch line, might have more to say.

Third, per Fox Sports, here's how screwed up the WADA is:
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Tuesday that while admission is tantamount to a failed drug test, WADA informed the tour late last week that it no longer considers the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited except for a positive test result.
So, WADA is saying, in a Kafkaesque way ... "take it, and take your chances, depending in part on the thoroughness of your sport's testing program."

Oh, loverly.

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