Well I can’t believe I am writing about the European tour after such an exciting finish to the Northern Trust Open, but I just have to give my “two cents” on the bizarre trend of viewers involving themselves in tournament play.
This weekend Peter Whiteford was playing a shot on the 18th hole of the 3rd round in the Avantha Masters in New Delhi, India. He thought perhaps his ball might have moved after he addressed it (if this were true he would need to take a one stroke penalty unless the rules official ruled differently). He asked his caddy, another player, and a TV camera man if they saw it move. They were not able to confirm if the ball had moved so he played on and signed his 3rd round score card. He went into the final day three shots behind the leader (after shooting rounds of 66, 68, and 72.)
Apparently, overnight, a number of TV viewers emailed the tour and said that Whiteford’s ball had moved. Then next morning, although they let Whiteford start his round, the rules officials decided to check the video from the previous day. On the third hole of the final round, the head official walked up to Whiteford (he was only one shot behind the leader) and told him he was disqualified because his ball did move and he signed an incorrect score card.
First of all, every player is responsible for following the rules. Whiteford’s only real mistake was that once he questioned if his ball moved he should have asked for an official ruling (thus avoiding any ambiguity.) I don’t believe he was trying to cheat. He is human and he made a mistake; but it seems unfair that folks sitting at home rewinding their tv’s over and over again can then impact the tournament by calling to tell the officials the ball did move. Can you imagine in football or baseball, the result of the game being changed the next day because viewers called with their opinion?
But what I really question is the fairness of how the officials handled this the next day. At some point in time a round should be considered “final.” If in fact there was any question, then the head rules official should never have let Whitefield start the fourth round. They should have reviewed the tape and made the judgment before the start of the last round. Basically, I think a precedent should be set that once the next round begins the previous round is considered “final and closed for review.” Maybe it doesn’t completely address post-round viewer input but at least it would be a start.
This is a complicated situation but in the long-term, I don’t want to see viewers of golf inserting themselves into the rules process of a tournament. Other sports fans have to accept missed calls, bad calls, or just stupid mistakes (that’s part of what makes the water cooler discussion so much fun the next day). Why should viewing golf be any different. Anyway, that’s just my “two cents.”