News in the golf world never seems to take a nap in 2013. Every week is laced with some intense, high powered issue and this week has been no exception.
Vijay Singh was relieved from any wrongdoing in the case of his use of deer antler spray by the PGA TOUR. After considerable review by the TOUR, and Commissioner Tim Finchem, it was deemed that Singh had not violated the TOUR’s substance abuse policy.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has determined that the use of deer antler spray is not considered prohibited. Based on that information, and given WADA’s lead role in interpreting the Prohibited List, the TOUR deemed it only fair to no longer treat Singh’s use of deer antler spray as a violation of the TOUR’s anti-doping program.
Singh has cooperated with the TOUR investigation and has been completely forthcoming and honest. During his Tuesday press conference, Finchem emphasized that the TOUR is committed to increasing its educational initiatives to remind players of the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program and the risk of utilizing any product without full understanding of the ingredients contained in that product.
Ironically, Singh withdrew from this week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow this week in Charlotte due to an ailing shoulder.
On Wednesday, the USGA and R&A released a statement on the handling of the Tiger Woods’ drop on Hole 15 during the second round of the Masters. This situation raised two questions of interpretation under the Rules of Golf.
1. The Ruling that Woods Dropped In and Played From a Wrong Place
The Rules do not define “as nearly as possible” in terms of a specific measured distance, because the conditions unique to each situation can affect how near to the original spot it is possible to drop a ball and because dropping a ball is an imprecise act. But, in this type of situation, in which the original spot was clearly identifiable as being just behind the back edge of the divot hole created by Woods’ previous stroke and the fact there were no other unusual circumstances, “as nearly as possible” means that the player must attempt to drop the ball on or next to (but not nearer the hole than) that spot. Woods did not do so. As a result, he was correctly penalized two strokes for dropping in and playing from a wrong place.
2. The Decision to Waive the Penalty of Disqualification
In deciding to waive the disqualification penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard, the Committee recognized that it had talked to Woods- before he returned his scorecard- about his drop on the 15th hole. About the Committee’s ruling, the Committee likely would have corrected that ruling and concluded that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place. In that case, he would have returned a correct score of 8 for the 15th hole and the issue of disqualification would not have arisen.
The Decisions on the Rules of Golf authorize a Committee to correct an incorrect decision before the competition has closed. They establish where a Committee incorrectly advises a competitor, before he returns his scorecard, that he has incurred no penalty. Then the Committee subsequently corrects its mistake and it is appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty.
The Masters Tournament Committee concluded that its actions taken prior to Woods’ returning his scorecard created an exceptional individual case that unfairly led to the potential for disqualification. In hindsight, the Committee determined that its initial ruling was incorrect, as well as that it had erred in resolving this question without first seeking information from Woods. Then they failed to inform Woods of the ruling.
As part of this ongoing assessment, and in keeping with its regular practice, the Rules of Golf Committees of the USGA and the R&A will review the exceptional situation that occurred at the 2013 Masters Tournament, assess the potential implications for other types of situations, and determine whether any adjustment to the Rules and/or Decisions is appropriate.
Let the implementation and execution of the rules rest with the governing bodies. But, I will maintain that as a player, Tiger Woods acted appropriately. I don’t recall seeing a situation in any other sport when an athlete would correct a ball or strike by an umpire; a referee’s flag or a line judge’s call.
Finally, Tianlang Guan was offered sponsor’s exemption for the upcoming Byron Nelson Classic this month in Dallas. Some in the media have been critical of giving the 14-year old Chinese player exemptions into PGA TOUR events such as the one he received in last week’s Zurich event in New Orleans. Are you kidding me?
Guan made the cut at The Masters and then shot a second round 69 en route to making the cut at New Orleans. He has indicated that he will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open. It has been the most refreshing story in golf for the past month. A 14-year old who can compete with the world’s best players. Let this madness continue!