I wasnt at the site of the incident, and neither were 99.9 percent of the people who have reacted so violently about it, so I have to be extremely careful what I say. But this was such a complex issue, one whereby several factors were involved. And there was blame enough to go all around the room, beginning with the main character, Michelle Wie.
But Michelle and her playing partner, Grace Park, were playing in the last group and were getting further and further behind the field. If Wie thought of calling for a referee, she probably didnt for fear of falling further behind. She dropped once and, believing her ball had rolled closer to the hole, picked it up and dropped again. She seemed certain that she had proceeded correctly this time, so getting an official to ascertain the distance must have seemed like a moot point.
* Secondly, the LPGA officials were wrong in deciding to assess the penalty ' not because they had the incorrect information in making the decision, but because they could not make a precise determination without having been personally at the scene. They determined Wies drop was wrong by 12, 15, 18 inches. That is far too close to make such an imperial judgment, one which would disqualify Wie from the tournament.
There was no way to precisely determine where Wies ball was found in the bush. And there was no way to determine precisely where she dropped it, especially after 30 hours had gone by. I am assuming here that they could tell the exact pin location from the previous day, but could they?
Officials relied on Wies word ' Here is where the ball was found, and here is where I dropped it. But even that isnt infallible, not when you are discussing 12 inches difference in a measure of approximately 90 feet.
Im not saying that in every such instance there is no way an official can make a ruling. But when the determination is declared to be of such a narrow margin, you cant possibly declare the ball was unequivocally closer to the hole after the drop.
* The LPGA was wrong in not having enough officials to go 18 holes with each group. There were 10 pairings among the small field of 20 players ' only 10 officials were needed - and the LPGA has decided that this is a marquee event. Because there were only two officials present, this black eye had to happen.
* Grace Park was wrong in not carefully scrutinizing Wies drop. She was Wies playing partner, but instead of carefully watching the drop and then reporting that she felt the drop was improper (if it was), Park stayed on the green 20 yards away.
* The reporter who brought up the incident, Michael Bamberger, was wrong for a couple of reasons. He should never have waited until the next day if he thought a violation had occurred ' the player would thus be forced to pay the ultimate penalty, disqualification, for something that could have been prevented if he had notified an official that day. Approximately 2 1/2 hours remained before Wie would sign her card, and there simply is no excuse for delaying the announcement until Sunday.
Now, that having been said, a strong argument can be made that Bamberger shouldnt have said anything anyway. He was at the tournament strictly as a reporter. He didnt have to pay to get in, he wasnt an opponent or an opponents caddy trying to protect the field. His decision to interject himself into the play of the tournament, instead of merely reporting on the events as they transpired, certainly will be debated for a long time.
Let me say, though, that I can find no hidden agenda in Bambergers act. He certainly didnt do it to sell magazines, as so many e-mailers have charged. There wont be 50 more Sports Illustrateds sold this week because of his revelations, and if every one of you who reported that you would never read SI again ' if you have stuck to your statements, SI lost big-time on the deal.
* And finally, all of professional golf was wrong for allowing this third party to decide the fate of a tournament participant a day after the incident took place. I am truly wary of an organization which allows such shenanigans ' and I call them shenanigans because they undoubtedly will cause many more call-ins to take place in the future ' to occur. The tours have a little validity in that they claim because the sport takes place over 200 acres, it would be impossible for them to police activity over such a wide area, that it is necessary to have Mr. or Mrs. Spectator tell them if they think they see a violation.
That occurs in no other sport ' it doesnt happen in football, and there is no way the referees can see the entire field at all times. And it shouldnt be allowed to happen in golf. But ' it REALLY should not be allowed to happen 30 hours after the fact.
Incidentally, much has been made of pictures showing Wie taking her drop with her arm below shoulder lever. This, the pundits say, would make it irrelevant where the drop was, since it is illegal anyway.
To this I say, photos taken immediately before the drop do seem to indicate her arm in an illegal position. However, photos taken from a different angle immediately as the ball is dropped indicate the arm was raised to a proper height. I cant tell that a violation has occurred.
At any rate, this will probably set off yet another avalanche of e-mails. But it is my final say on the matter. The matter became dead the moment the disqualification was announced, and now its left to the Monday Morning Quarterbacks to rehash the issues. And I, matter of fact, have just become one.
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