ATLANTA – It is a twist of timing and television that a month after Major League Baseball voted to expand its video review process, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem seemed to be cooling on pro golf’s version of the video replay.
“It’s cumbersome and difficult and awkward sometimes,” Finchem said Tuesday at East Lake during his annual State of the Tour news conference.
To be fair, it’s not the video review part of the equation that irks Finchem so much as it is how some possible infractions come to light. Last week, for example, it was a video editor with Tour Entertainment who pointed out that Tiger Woods’ golf ball had moved while he was removing some debris from behind his ball on the first hole during the second round.
Although Woods later said the ball simply “oscillated,” after a video review officials maintained his ball moved and he was penalized two shots.
“Call ins” are nothing new on Tour, so much so the circuit should consider an 800 number to streamline the process. Or, do away with the practice altogether, which did not sound utterly out of the question if you read between the lines.
“We’ll probably be taking another harder look at it after we get done with the season,” Finchem said.
Primarily, Finchem’s concerns seem fixated on the timing of call ins. “Is it better to have some sort of limit on it? If you don’t learn about something before X time. All the other sports close their books a little quicker than we do, so to speak,” he said.
While it seems certain Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., will give call ins another looksee don’t expect much movement on this.
As distasteful as the doubt and dials may seem the alternative is unacceptable.
“What are you going to do? Say, ‘I know you saw an infraction, but we aren’t going to take call ins,’” said Paul Goydos, one of four player directors on the Tour’s policy board.
“You have to get things right. That’s easy for me to say, I’m never on TV. If it wasn’t Tiger Woods, if it was Paul Goydos and he didn’t see the ball move and there was no camera then there was no penalty. Tiger is on TV when he’s playing bad, but if something happens that can be fixed before the end of the round, then, yeah, fix it.”
It should also be pointed out that Joe Quick Dial can’t slap two on Woods, or anyone else, if a faux pas is picked up via the hi-def. A viewer can call in a possible infraction – although we can’t say how fans track down a phone number to do so – but officials are going to review the tape multiple times and consult with the player before making a ruling.
It happens every week on Tour, with the vast majority leading to no violation.
In 1995, for example, Goydos hit his tee shot at Bay Hill’s 17th hole just into the edge of a water hazard.
“It was playable, short of bunker and there was grass around the ball,” Goydos recalled. “When I took the club back a stalk of grass folded back and hit the water and it looked like my club had brushed the water (which would have been a violation of the Rules of Golf).”
A viewer reported the possible infraction, but after a review Tour officials ruled there had been no violation . . . that is other than the normal long-distance dialing charges.
For those who bristle at the notion of call ins, know this, there is not a player on Tour who would want to win a title only to find out after the fact that he’d committed some violation, however unintended.
“I think we can manage ourselves. I don’t think there are people out here trying to (cheat),” Kevin Streelman said. “At the same time, it’s hard to say anything against someone calling in to say what they saw.”
It’s not as though Streelman, or any other frat brother, finds the idea of call ins particularly well-intentioned. “Someone sitting there with binoculars trying to find something doesn’t really seem in the spirit of the game,” he said.
It’s just that ignoring call ins is not in the spirit of the game. As cumbersome, difficult and awkward as they may be to Finchem & Co., ignoring possible violations is simply not an option.