Tiger got burnt by this twice in one year and hard.

In April of 2013 Tiger Woods hit the most perfect knock-down wedge as his third shot into the par 5 green on Hole 15 at the Masters. I call it the most perfect knock-down wedge because it was so perfect it hit the flagstick. However, rather than dropping straight down or even off to the side, the ball bounced backward, caught the hill just shy of the green and rolled backwards all the way into the water. After turning away in absolute disgust, Tiger calmly dropped another ball and hit the same shot. This time the ball landed as it should, however, as a result of the two-shot penalty for losing a ball in the water he carded a 6 on the hole instead of the 4 he probably would have.

But then things got worse….

A viewer (who is actually a Champion’s tour player) noticed that Tiger did not drop his ball in exactly the same spot as the rules require for a hazard marked by yellow stakes. However, rules officials at the time noted that the second ball had been hit from about the same place and decided not to impose a penalty. After his round, however, when asked about what transpired Tiger said that he did NOT put his second ball down in the exact same place. After meeting over night the rules committee at Augusta called Tiger in and imposed a two-stroke penalty. Some argued that he should be disqualified because since the rule was imposed after the fact this meant that he had signed an incorrect score card.

This past weekend at the BMW championship a producer noticed that when Tiger was removing debris from around his ball when it landed in the woods, that it moved slightly and didn’t return to its original position. Again, the penalty was imposed after the fact and Woods argued that the ball merely oscillated in its place but close up video appears to show the ball (from a different angle) moving downwards.

Rules Officials exist, on site, to enforce rules as they see fit. Some officials are harsher than others (think of the 14-year old cited for slow play at this past Masters’) and sometimes violations are called for non-obvious reasons; e.g. Craig Stadler who used a towel under his knees to hit a ball from under a tree and was called for improving his stance.

Much of it is at the discretion of the rules officials. A mistake was made at this year’s Solheim cup that may have helped the European’s when a rules official mistakenly called a violation and stalled momentum gain by the American team.

Yes, rules officials sometimes make mistakes, miss obvious violations, and/or enforce penalties at their own judgment. The system is faulty and error-prone. However, allowing home viewers to act like rules official invites mayhem. Tiger recently suggested that time limits should be imposed for when viewers call in infractions. However, it is my option that this practice should discontinue altogether for the following reason:

It unfairly targets more popular or better players.

Players take drops, lose balls, end up in the woods, and so forth plenty of times throughout their rounds. However, viewers don’t’ call in possible violations on “average” tour players who don’t appear on TV. Tiger, or whomever, may or may not flirt with rules violations any more than anyone else but it would certainly APPEAR that he does. That’s not fair.

Home viewers are not certified officials.

Ever play with the guy in the league who wants to call you on every possible mistake? Blatant errors aside he’s a pain in the butt on small things… Give some people a camera and they want to find every possible error. It has the potential to get severely out of hand; what happened to the honor in golf? Aren’t we expecting players to call penalties on themselves?

This is unheard of in other sports.

Ever watch a tennis match and see Serena Williams argue with a judge about whether or not a ball was out? Stay out of HER way! Nevertheless, a fan in the stands or viewer at home would never be allowed to put in his or her two cents about what happened with that ball. I spent a lot of time around folks yelling at the refs on the TV during basketball and football games and seen various implementations of instant replay. But NEVER would that yelling turn into an actual phone call to officials at the game that was THEN taken seriously. Let the refs handle it. That’s what they get paid to do.

It countercedes other rules.

How can the player NOT sign an incorrect score card if the penalty isn’t assessed until call-in’s are over after the round is finished? As it stands they already added a rule to help deal with TV viewers calling in Rules violations. Specifically; under Rule 33-7, “[a] penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.”

This means that if a rules violation merited disqualification the committee has the right to waive this. Particularly in light of a rules infraction that was found after a player has signed his or her scorecard. This rule was cited as the reason that Tiger was note disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

When you start to impose rules to deal with rules being violated post hoc it’s as though you’re prescribing medicine to deal with the symptoms brought about medicine to cure the problem. Let the “referees” handle it on the field and be done with it.♣