Rules, rules, rules.
This is the year that the game’s rules were supposedly simplified – and they were – but that hasn’t prevented rules issues from intruding on tournament golf in recent weeks.
Kendall Dye and Dewi Weber were involved in a rules issue at LPGA Q-Series when Dye signaled Weber’s caddie to ask what club Weber was using on a par-3. The caddie signaled back and, after both players were later assessed two-stroke penalties for violating Rule 10-2, which prohibits players from offering or soliciting advice during a round, Dye admitted she did not know her actions were against the rules.
At the Senior LPGA Championship, Lee Ann Walker was penalized 58 strokes after she discovered it was against the revised rules to have her caddie help her with her putting alignment during competition, a mistake she made 29 times by her count during the tournament.
So much for social media keeping everyone updated on everything.
At the PGA Tour Champions’ Invesco QQQ Championship, Billy Mayfair had two rules issues – taking longer than three minutes to search for a lost ball then, later, not immediately calling a penalty on himself when his ball moved after he had addressed a pitch shot. Mayfair was eventually disqualified.
At the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour qualifying, Luis Gagne was in position to advance to the finals until he failed to sign his scorecard, leading to his disqualification.
He won’t do that again.
During the second round of the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Golf Classic last week, Russell Henley was dinged eight shots (two strokes each for four holes) for violating the PGA Tour’s one-ball rule. Henley inadvertently put a different kind of ball in play on the holes in question, using a Pro V1x model with different markings and slightly different specs than the type of ball with which he started the round.
It was an innocent mistake but with severe consequences, as Henley missed the cut instead of playing the weekend.
The rules can be harsh. Some have argued that it’s time to get rid of requiring players to sign their scorecards after a round, particularly in PGA Tour events, which have walking scorers with every group.
Signing your card is a small thing but a big thing. It’s attesting to what you shot in a game built on integrity. What about tournaments that don’t have scorers with every group? Golf isn’t like other sports where players regularly try to influence officials to give them the benefit of the doubt. In the NBA, getting away with traveling (it’s maddening) has become a part of the game.
Golf is better than that. It asks different questions than football or basketball or baseball.
It’s easy to get carried away with the “gentleman’s game” idea – plenty of golfers cheat and they will angle for every advantage they can get – but the rules define the game.
Offensive linemen can get away with holding plenty of times and sleep just fine. In golf, players have called penalties on themselves that have cost them trophies.
Sometimes the rules seem silly or severe and maybe they are. Some – like signing a scorecard – may seem outdated.
And sometimes the rules, with all the quirky things they can produce, remind us again why golf is like no other game.
That is a big part of its charm, no matter how much violations occasionally sting.
As if Brendon Todd didn’t already have enough to celebrate, having resurrected his career with consecutive PGA Tour victories over the past three weeks, he returns this week to where his comeback took root a year ago – the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga.
Last November at Sea Island, Todd shot 61 in a Monday qualifier to get into the RSM Classic and eventually finished T54. Todd said that had he not gotten into the field at Sea Island, he was seriously considering giving up professional golf and perhaps getting into the pizza-franchise business.
Now he’s completed a remarkable comeback story, winning the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Want perspective on how far Todd has come in 12 months?
A year ago, he was ranked 2,043rd in the world. Now he’s 83rd.
Todd had seemingly every reason in the world to give up the game. He was a lost and tortured soul, almost literally unable to pull the club back at times, fearing where the next shot might go. Still, Todd persevered.
“I think a lot of it for me was just the self belief I had and all the previous success I’ve had,” Todd said after his Mayakoba victory. “I’ve won at the highest level of junior golf, highest level of college golf and I’ve won at all levels of pro golf before I had the struggles.
“And I had already been through a slump like that in 2010, so while it did last longer and I did consider maybe looking for other things to do, I always knew if I got my game back, I would know how to play at this level; it’s just a matter of can I hit the ball between the trees.”
So what about his plans to get into the pizza business?
“I’ve made myself a nice, new business and I’m enjoying it,” Todd said.
Rory McIlroy drops his ball while a rules official watches during the second round of the Zozo Championship. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images
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