SBD/April 15, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Viewer Participation: Golf Stands Out As Only Sport In Which Fans Can Call In Violations

Golf fans call tournament officials to report possible rule infractions they see on TV broadcasts "nearly every week," but that is "unheard-of in other sports," according to a front-page piece by Pennington & Crouse of the N.Y. TIMES. The practice is resurfacing following Tiger Woods' two-shot penalty during his second round at The Masters Friday, when a viewer alerted Augsta National of a possible rule violation. Masters officials said that "hundreds of viewers contacted the club with suspected rules infractions." Most often, they "call the club, whose phone number is easy to find on the Internet." Those calls are sent to the tournament HQs office, and the details of the calls are "recorded and documented with the specifics of the suspected violation scrupulously noted and then passed on to the Masters rules committee." Each case is "investigated." The history of TV whistle-blowers in golf "goes back at least 25 years." Golfer Bubba Watson on Saturday said, "Our sport is the only one you’d ever allow viewers to do that. They’re definitely not calling about missed balls and strikes during a baseball game or if someone’s getting away with holding during a football game.” He added that PGA Tour players were "approached about viewer-generated rules investigations" with such "frequency it was shrugged off in the players’ locker room." Pennington & Crouse noted other major sports "do not have a system in place that would allow viewers at home to contact the ruling authorities and point out overlooked transgressions." But in golf, which is "largely policed by players who routinely call penalties on themselves, the interloping armchair referee is welcomed, or at least listened to" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14). Masters Rules Committee Chair Fred Ridley said the tournament receives "dozens of these calls every Masters." Ridley: "You don't hear about them because most of them do not amount to anything." But in Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote what is "remarkable, in this case, is that the caller probably saved Woods from being disqualified" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/14).

WHY IS IT EVEN ALLOWED? In Newark, Steve Politi asked, "Why does golf even allow that? Does anyone else think this is totally ridiculous?" Imagine that "happening during an NFL game." Woods is being "punished here because he’s on TV more than anyone else in the sport." He has been "hit with a two-stroke penalty because he’s a celebrity who goofed up and said the wrong thing with the cameras rolling" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/14). Watson on Saturday said, "A high-profile player has the camera on him all the time. Like me today, there were no cameras on me today. Everybody could care less what I was doing. They were worried about what Tiger was doing" (USATODAY.com, 4/13). In N.Y., Filip Bondy wrote under the header, "Method Of How Tiger Woods Was Penalized At Masters Shows Golf Is Going Off Course" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/14).
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