Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Golf and A New Kind of Hazard

Is anyone else sick and tired of the rules of golf, how they’re applied, when and by whom? I know I am. This past weekend at the US Women’s Open was another example – following hot on the heels of the men’s US Open – of how badly officialdom
is dealing with rule infractions.

Let’s cut to the chase: Anna Nordqvist ‘grounded’ her club in a bunker which as we all know is an instant penalty... but it was the manner and timing of how the penalty was applied. Having unknowingly committed this sin in a fairway bunker on her second play-off hole against Brittany Lang, the rules officials didn’t inform the players of the penalty until halfway through the third play-off hole. That might seem reasonable enough, given how the TV review process seems to work these days, but the timing couldn’t have been less appropriate. The hole was a par five and Nordqvist had just played her third shot. She was then told of the penalty. So, too, was Lang, but she was told BEFORE she played her third shot. Considering they were level up to that point, Lang suddenly discovers she is two shots ahead and any pressure on her third shot evaporates. She changes her club and plays safe.

That’s an unfair advantage. In such a high pressure situation who knows what Lang might have done had she not known about the penalty. Nordqvist made her feelings pretty clear afterwards: 

“I wish they would have told us after 17, when it actually happened, not like so far down 18, because they obviously must have seen it earlier,” Nordqvist said. “I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome, but it certainly would have changed my aggressiveness going into the (third) shot.”

Yes, rules are rules, and while her club only glanced the sand before she played her shot, it was a penalty. Nordqvist has dealt with it extremely well – “I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, hey I just finished 2nd in the US Open.” – no one disputes that but such fiascos are bad for players, bad for viewers… and bad for golf.

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