Whether you are a golfer or golf fan if you watch TV in March and early April every year you have probably seen commercial for The Masters, the first of the 4 major professional golf tournaments every year hosted and played at The Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. The tag line CBS uses for these ads is, “The Masters, a tradition unlike any other.”
Golf, A Game Like No Other
I have been a golfer and continue to be a fan of golf, the game and many of those who play it. I marvel at the skills they display and the game of golf itself is like no other. The tournaments are contested on different courses each week and the professional golfers depend on their own skills, work ethic, character, and mental toughness. Golfers pay close attention to the rules of the game and often call penalties on themselves even when no one else might have seen the infraction. They also hold their playing partners to the highest standard and can call attention to a rule infraction by their playing partners in order to protect the field. All of these factors determine how successful any golfer is or is not on the PGA Tour. Those are some of the primary reasons I love the game, the golfer is dependent on himself for success or failure and himself or herself alone and the character normally displayed is not common any more in today’s society.
A Tradition For Me
The Masters every April has always been my favorite tournament of the year and it has been a tradition for me to watch The Masters on Sunday afternoon every year for the past 40 years. I have not missed very many. Ask my family. Our children have grown up watching it and we have been there to practice rounds a couple of times. Augusta National is a beautiful place, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Look back at Abstract or just a different perspective? if you want to see more thoughts on Augusta National.
That is another reason I love golf. It is played on some of the most beautiful places in the world. Augusta National is the top of that list for me and millions of others. The Masters always marks the official beginning of spring for me. I think I can speak intelligently about the subject as I am somewhat familiar with it.
All that to say, what I am about to say about what The Masters did today is hard for me to say but it has so affected me I cannot not say it.
Bobby Jones and The Masters
Bobby Jones along with Clifford Roberts founded The Masters and was known for his integrity while playing the game and in his life after retiring from competitive golf at the age of 28. He was an amateur and played the game because he loved the game. He once saw his ball move, after addressing it, a rules violation, and called a penalty on himself. No one else saw the infraction and even the official recommended he not call the penalty because no one else had seen it. He did call the penalty on himself because he said he would know he saw it move and it was an infraction. This happened during The U.S. Open, another of the four major tournaments each year, and that one stroke caused him to tie for the tournament lead at the end of regulation and he eventually lost the tournament in a playoff.
There are many other instances such as this throughout the history of golf and this integrity of the game is one of the reasons I love it and sets golf apart from many other sports I believe.
Fast Forward to Today, April 13, 2013
Yesterday, during the second round of The Masters, Tiger Woods, one of the best golfers of all time, committed an infraction on the 15th hole. This was seen by millions of people and was clearly a violation of the rule. He made an illegal drop in his words, “I went back to where I played it from,” Woods said, “but I went 2 yards further back and I took, tried to take 2 yards off the shot of what I felt I hit.” Rule 26-1 is the rule in question. Since he signed his scorecard for a 6 on this hole instead of a 7 he signed an incorrect scorecard and should be disqualified.
The Masters Rules committee said they saw the drop and did not think it was a rule violation, a sad commentary on the rules committee, and did not mention this to Tiger then or when he finished his round before he signed his scorecard. Apparently a television viewer or viewers called in to say Tiger had violated the rules so they then decided to review the issue.
It is the player’s responsibility to know the rules of the game and abide by the rules. If they have a question about any of the rules there is always an official either with their group or one can be summoned to answer any question they have about a rule or situation. Tiger did not ask for help from an official. It is irrelevant whether Tiger thought he was breaking a rule or not. Ignorance of the rule does not imply you do not have to abide by it. If that was the case then all golfers would just plead ignorance when a rule violation was in question.
Review Not Handled Like All Others
Normally, when there is a question about a rule, an official is asked to make a ruling, the ruling is made and play continues. This is normally done before the player signs his scorecard. This did not happen Friday with this situation. Instead, the rules committee apparently had to think about the implications of this issue overnight as they did not summon Tiger to discuss this until Saturday morning. This is one of the reasons I am disappointed with The Masters. They have always been above reproach when it comes to their tradition and the rules of the game in keeping with the spirit of the founder of the tournament Bobby Jones.
Tiger Woods had several hours after this meeting with the rules committee to consider doing the honorable and right thing by disqualifying himself but chose not to. He could have gained much respect and many new fans and possibly more self-respect if he had and would not have his career marked with this asterisk and have “the Tiger rule” follow him around the rest of his career. I did not really expect him to do this but was hoping he might surprise me and the rest of the golfing world.
A Stroke of Preference
This mystique and standard was breached today with this ruling in much the same manner as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James do not get called for fouls that other, non-marquee players do get called for in basketball. Special treatment for Tiger Woods was given today as I have no doubt that if this was any other participant in the tournament this week disqualification would have been the result and it would have been handled Friday night and not Saturday morning. The reasons that seem obvious to me are TV rating and dollars. I never thought The Masters would lower itself to this level but since they have their tag line for me will be, “The Masters, a tradition like many others” and that is sad for me.
Breaking A 40 Year Tradition is Hard
So I will be breaking a 40 year tradition for me tomorrow afternoon. I will not be watching The Masters while Tiger Woods is still playing as I do not want my TV to be counted among the numbers that make up the ratings for the telecast and I want my integrity to remain intact. I cannot condemn their actions and then watch anyway. That would be hypocritical. I know my boycott will not make any difference to CBS or The Masters but it will make a difference for me. It will be hard, as breaking any tradition that has lasted 40 years would be.
After he is done I will probably watch the end of the tournament. I can’t say for sure right now what I will do next year. I do know Augusta National is still one of the most beautiful places on earth and I would like to visit again. I have a daughter and son-in-law who live in Augusta so I have another reason to visit as well. However, as with people, any time credibility is lost it is hard for it to be regained, if it ever is, and it does take time. That will be true of The Masters for me. They no longer hold the highest level of honor and credibility they did Thursday for me. I hope that does return but it will take some time if it does.
Until then, The Masters has now become a tradition like many others, a sad day for golf.
Maybe I will watch, Bobby Jones, A Stroke of Genius to remind me of the integrity of the man who started this tournament. Maybe The Masters Rules Committee and Tiger Woods should re-watch this too.
Those are my thoughts on the subject. I would love to hear yours in the comments.
Until next time…
Originally published on Peculiar Perspective on 04/13/2013