Wednesday 21 February 2018

Rules change takes power away from 'armchair' refs

Karl MacGinty

SEE no evil? Then you've done no evil!

Those words may have a biblical ring but they neatly sum up the new ethos for golf in the electronic age.

The sport's ruling bodies, the R&A and USGA, deemed in their biennial review of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf that a player cannot be penalised for an accidental rules infraction not discernible to the human eye.

Despite widespread reports to the contrary, this new measure was not inspired by 'Oscillgate' ... the incident involving Tiger Woods at September's BMW Championship.

On that occasion, Woods was penalised two strokes after video evidence showed his ball moved in the underbrush as he tried to clear twigs and cones away from behind it.

Tiger insisted his ball had merely oscillated on its spot. Yet TV pictures of the incident made it plain -- he should have gone to Specsavers.

The new Decision 18/4 "provides that where enhanced technological evidence (eg HDTV, digital recording or online visual media) shows that the ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye."

In the video from the incident at the BMW, Tiger's ball clearly shifted.

So even after January 1, when the new decision comes into effect, one would expect PGA Tour referees to rule such obvious movement of the ball to be "reasonably discernible".

This latest attempt by legislators to come to terms with the impact of high definition TV evidence inevitably will make life more difficult for the men and women on the spot.

Instead of determining if a ball simply moved, the rules official now must interpret what a golfer might 'reasonably' be expected to see.

In April 2011, decision 33-7/5.4 waived disqualification for a player who signed a scorecard deemed to be incorrect on foot of a penalty liable for a rules breach which could only be identified later with advanced technology.

This measure was taken after Padraig Harrington was disqualified hours after signing for a first-round 65 at that year's Abu Dhabi Championship when a TV viewer reported a minute movement of the Dubliner's ball after he'd replaced it on the seventh green.

Making it possible in such circumstances to amend a golfer's score after he'd signed his card was preferable to disqualification ... but was it fair? From January 1 next, justice at least must be 'seen' to be done!

Irish Independent

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