PALM HARBOR, Fla. – The European Tour has a new policy in its regulations this year that forbids a player or a caddie to place a bet on any golf tournament in which they are participating.
That’s the letter of the law. But it’s not the intent.
“It’s a completely new regulation for us,” said David Garland, director of tour operations. “We just feel that looking at other sports, and instances of gambling scandals in other sports over here, we didn’t have a policy. It’s been a little topical at the moment.”
Betting, particularly in Britain, is almost a sport unto itself. Garland said golf is the fourth-most popular betting sport in the United Kingdom. During some of the major championships, there can be bets on who will have the lowest score among a particular group, or even as simple as who will place in the top 10.
The first section of the policy is that no player or caddie can either directly or indirectly bet or be involved in a bet in a competition they are playing or have any influence. Another section forbids players or caddies to provide information in which either has inside information.
That kind of stuff would appear to go on all the time.
“I don’t think the $20 bet is a problem,” said Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the tournament committee. “We’ve had big scandals in cricket, there’s stuff going on in snooker. You have to protect yourself against the inside stuff.”
So is this policy directed mainly at caddies?
“Not at all,” Garland said. “We know the caddies have a range of small bets. It’s just making them aware that it can lead to other things. They’ve got to realize caddies are an integral part of the golfer’s team. They can influence, and they need to be aware of this policy.”
Garland said the tour essentially needed to protect itself with a policy, especially in light of other scandals. Unlike the anti-doping policy, in which a six-month education process preceded the policy taking effect, the tour put it in the books immediately and will spend the next year talking to various people involved to make them understand.
“What we’ve seen in other sports is that it’s the individual who’s not at the top of the game that gets involved,” Garland said. “It starts with information. Then it goes to, ‘Can you do this for me and do that for me?’ In the world of illegal gambling, these are high numbers people are talking about, and it may become tempting.
“We want to get this over to players, caddies and everyone connected on the tour about the dangers involved.”
TOP RECOGNITION: Martin Kaymer can still make his way through airports and shopping malls without being recognized as the world’s No. 1 player, although he did get a taste of his growing fame in Arizona.
After moving to the top of the ranking, Kaymer said he was finishing up dinner at a steakhouse in Scottsdale.
“We got a free dessert from the restaurant and on the cake it said, ‘Congratulations, No. 1 in the world,”’ Kaymer said. “I get recognized a bit more than in the past.”
TWITTER AND TEXT: Lee Westwood has taken to Twitter and his followers quickly grew to some 135,000 during his 17-week reign as No. 1 in the world ranking. He is active, having put out more than 3,000 tweets.
Westwood, however, appeared to go silent when Martin Kaymer replaced him at No. 1 in the world.
That wasn’t the case. Westwood just went old school and sent Kaymer a text message. It was his agent, Chubby Chandler, who explained to him the phenomenon of Twitter.
“Sometimes you can see some of the guys on it, they don’t quite get what they’re achieving,” Chandler said. Lee has 135,000 followers, and when he wasn’t No. 1, I said to him, ‘I think you should congratulate Martin.’ He said, ‘I already have. I sent him a text.’ And I said, ‘You’ve got 135,00 people who don’t know you’ve done that.”’
STICKY GRIPS: Geoff Ogilvy was curious about a new style of grips that he made the switch to when he was home in Australia late last year.
What’s so unusual about the leather grips from The Grip Masters?
For starters, they’re made of kangaroo – but that’s an Australian thing.
What intrigued Ogilvy is that the more the grips get moist, the more tackier they become. He says he can control that by how much he wipes them down with a wet towel.
“I got addicted to the tackiness straight away,” Ogilvy said of the one-piece leather grips.
As for the kangaroo? The grips also are made from the leather of cows, and even deer and sea snakes.
“Everything (Rory) Sabbatini has on his belt, you can get for a grip,” Ogilvy said. “I just thought kangaroo would be cool. I’m sure I’d like a cow just as much. But everyone has cows. We’re the only country that has kangaroos.”
DIVOTS: Now that Butch Harmon no longer works with Stewart Cink, he has added another client to his stable – S.K. Noh, the talented teenager from South Korea. Harmon says Noh approached him in Abu Dhabi, and he came to see Harmon in Las Vegas on his way to the Cadillac Championship. Harmon says he’ll be working with him on a limited basis. … The USGA is moving its U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur events in 2012 to earlier in the year to avoid conflicts with going back to school. … Lee Trevino, 71, shot a 70 in the first round of the Toshiba Classic. It was the first time he broke his age in competition. … Golf Channel said it averaged 1.07 million viewers the opening two rounds of the Cadillac Championship, the best two-day viewership for Doral since 1.09 million viewers in 2002 when it was on USA Network. Golf Channel now has had higher ratings for all 36 of the PGA Tour rounds it has broadcast this year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The last eight World Golf Championships have been won by eight players dating to the 2009 Bridgestone Invitational – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan, Francesco Molinari, Luke Donald and Nick Watney.
FINAL WORD: “I find it very strange that he has never been No. 1 in the world. He really deserved to be there. But obviously with Tiger up there all those years, it was very difficult.” – Martin Kaymer, on Phil Mickelson never reaching the top of the world ranking.