PGA Tour to tackle trial by television

Golf has always been a game that prided itself on being the most honourable of them all.

So maybe we don’t appreciate being “caught out” for want of a better word by people sitting sometimes thousands of kilometres away watching us on television.

Tim Finchem PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem

This ‘trial by video’ has happened to some of the biggest names in the professional game too – like Tiger Woods, Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington and Peter Hanson.

And when the world number one (Woods) has to defend himself and winds up being penalised, you have to ask yourself how many are actually getting away with it just because there rules infractions are not being picked up by the television cameras.

US PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem admits it’s a “difficult and awkward” problem that needs to be addressed.

Now Finchem has stated that the Tour will look into whether it is fair for a player to be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard when spectator or video information comes to light afterwards.

At the moment, if information becomes known prior to the conclusion of a tournament but after a player signed his scorecard, thereby not adding penalty strokes, he is disqualified.

For those that missed it, Woods was hit with a two-stroke penalty only after enhanced slow-motion video footage showed his ball moved while he attempted to remove debris at the recent BMW Championship.

That calls for a two-stroke penalty if the ball is not replaced, but Woods argued the ball only ‘oscillated’, which would have meant no penalty.

“It feels awkward when it happens,” said Finchem about the Woods incident, which only came to light because a PGA Tour camera crew was filming the golfer.

“On the other hand, I hate to say it’s part of the tradition of the game because actually you can’t really argue that because it’s changed with the degree of television we have.”

“I think we need to do some more thinking about it. And I think people in the game need to think about it.”

Tour players have been forced to add their two-pence worth too.

Brand Snedeker said a line needed to be drawn and the practice stopped.

“I don’t know where that is – I don’t think fans should be able to call in and dictate the outcome of a tournament,” he said.

Yet longtime Tour player and commentator Peter Jacobsen disagrees.

“When we have fans calling in after watching it on TV, it strengthens the rules of the game and strengthens how good we have to be,” he said.

“I don’t mind people calling it in.”

“It’s unfair for Tiger because Tiger’s got a camera on him everywhere he goes. But it only keeps us sharp.”

Finchem said the tour would take a look at prohibiting viewers calling in, though it was not believed to be a high priority.