Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf
Mutt: Well, I never! Here's one to ponder. Matthew Southgate suffered what must be one of the harshest of rules penalties I have ever heard of in the Web.Com qualifiers.
His short putt was diverted from going into the hole by a moving leaf blown by the wind. No doubt, cursing his bad luck, Southgate proceeded to hole out from where the ball had finished rolling not realizing it would result in a four shot penalty - two strokes for playing from the wrong place and another two for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Jeff: Not so long ago, he would have been disqualified. In this case, the MOVING leaf was considered an outside agency and not a 'rub of the green.' The putt should have been replayed from its original position WITHOUT PENALTY.
Not only that but Southgate ultimately missed winning his PGA Tour Card by three spots i.e. less than $500.
Mutt: One man's misfortune is another's good luck. Seamus Power got the last Tour spot. That darn leaf and silly scorecard rule saved the Waterford man.
Jeff: A second penalty for inadvertently signing a wrong card when the player could have had no knowledge that he had infringed has got to go and, I understand that it may well do when the new rules under consideration for 2020 come into play.
Penalising a golfer twice for such an innocuous offence is grossly unfair made worse because he had already penalized himself by not retaking the putt - a likelihood of being five shots worse off than he could have been?
Mutt: Automatic disqualification for 'innocently' signing a wrong card needs further reforming, double penalties when one is unaware that something as innocent as a ball moving through no fault of one's own and no advantage obtained is not equitable.
Jeff: It seems that in every golf tournament, somebody is disqualified. My black humour is responsible for my always checking down through the listings to see who the unfortunate golfer that was disqualified might have been each time although I would be aware that, as often as not, it can be for something as innocent as missing a tee time.
Mutt: I don't mind admitting that I have DQ'd myself on purpose in 36-holes events because I was so fed up with the way I was playing or the condition of the golf course that I wanted to go home and cut my 'suffering' short!
It might not have been good sportsmanship but there you go, golf is a selfish game!
Jeff: Talking about leaves what about the two guys playing a 'friendly' match recently when one claimed the hole because the other swished a fallen leaf off his putting line with his putter?
It was deemed to be 'testing the surface' and the claim was upheld. They are no longer friends.
Mutt: You see golfers doing that all of the time. Who would want to play with somebody as pernickety as that?
Jeff: Moving leaves from your line on windy days is a waste of time and energy. Whenever I see a player going overboard removing leaves, I chuckle to myself and mutter: "You're not that good, mate".
Mutt: Look at all of the trouble they cause? I suppose if you play golf for a living, you should know the rules inside out and not get caught out like this. In fairness to Matt Southgate, he didn't complain.
He admitted that it was his own fault. He acknowledged that as a pro he should know even the most obscure rules. He felt embarrassed by the entire episode.
Jeff: Fair dues to Matthew! It is nearly always your own fault if you get penalized but you take the consequences. How many golfers unwittingly and inadvertently break rules in every round they play? Lots!
I see it all of the time but you'd spoil your own game and peace of mind if you keep pointing out the transgressions.
In most cases no advantage is sought or obtained but golf should be above the attitude you see in other sports where hoodwinking the referee is seen as 'fair game' when, in fact, there is nothing fair about it at all.
For one thing, there is no referee in golf and a code of honour operates instead. When you cheat on the rules or cheat an opponent, you are really cheating yourself.
Mutt: Golf is a wonderful game - simpler rules would make it more enjoyable for everyone.
Jeff: I appreciate that but, really, shouldn't a pro know ALL of the rules? It's his livelihood.
When you’re an accountant, you have to know the tax rules in order to be able to advise people . . . when you’re a pro golfer you need to know the rules of golf to play it in a manner beyond suspicion that is fair to everyone.
Rules like these is one of the reasons why new recruits to golf give it up and turn away from the game. Besides, I've always said there shouldn't be trees on golf courses!
Words of the Wise
Committees should consider replacing some greenside bunkering with rough covered bumps and swales. Elite golfers would dislike that intensely compared to playing from flat sand but who cares about them? They make up less than 1% of golfers. It would be more interesting for spectators and maintenance costs would be a lot less. Drainage of bunkers would be a non-issue.