Making Sense of the DQ Rules


Once again, we are faced with one of golfs interesting conundrums: should, or should not, have Michelle Wie been disqualified?
By now we all know the particulars: reporter Michael Bamberger was on the scene when Wie took a drop in mid-round Saturday. Bamberger suspected something might have been amiss, agonized over whether to report it and finally spoke up on Sunday evening. Tour officials determined that Wie had dropped closer to the hole by a foot, and since she had already signed her scorecard for Saturdays round, DQd her after the tournament had been completed.
Michelle Wie
Would Michelle Wie's improper drop have been noticed if she wasn't such a high profile player?
There are four or five interesting facets to this case, but only one stands out to me as glaringly wrong ' once again, an observer makes the tour officials aware of a miscue long after the fact; the officials take the complaint and make a determination (this time a day after said infraction happened); and then the guilty party is slapped with a disqualification.
Imagine that scenario being played out in football. On Monday, a chap calls the league office and reveals that he has put a laser on a running back and determined that the ball was three inches from being in the end zone. It had been called a touchdown on Sunday, of course, in a 20-17 win. But the caller was found to be correct, and the team is now given a defeat instead of a win.
Its much more so with the leaders in a golf tournament. Lets say Tiger Woods is shown hitting a shot 60 times during a round on television. He has maybe 20 members of the media following him on the golf course. If he makes a mistake, it is immediately beamed around the world or spotted by one of the entourage following him.
But Joe X doesnt have to worry about any of this. He tours the course in front of his wife and five curious spectators. There are no television cameras following his every move. He plays completely by the rules, he firmly believes, but during the afternoon he unknowingly breaks a rule. He signs his card, walks off into the sunset, and sleeps soundly, free from the worry that an untoward ball drop, for example, will bring a disqualification tomorrow.
This hardly seems fair, does it? But all the pro tours abide by the same rules. They have rules officials on hand to protect any of the players, but who knows how many rules violations have been committed ' inadvertently ' by the lesser-known players? The rulebook is so thick, and players are notorious in their ignorance of it. And even if they do know a rule, they make a mistake a la Wie in, for example, dropping a ball.
This is not a slap at Bamberger ' he told our Brian Hewitt that he agonized over what to do until he spoke to an editor at his publication. The editor said to tell an official what he (Bamberger) saw, and the resulting flap caused Wie to be DQd.
Why should Bamberger be put in this situation in the first place? If Wie weren't such a newsworthy name, he certainly wouldnt have been following her. And if the LPGA had a policy in place that said once a shot is played, its played ' this never would have happened.
Bamberger was only doing what he certainly should have under the circumstances. But the fact is, if it had been, for example Wendy Ward, the infraction would never have been spotted.
Pro golf tours state, with a lot of conviction, that an infraction is an infraction is an infraction. And they are correct. But instead of having the desired effect of making certain that all the rules are adhered to, they sometimes cause a very uneven playing field. And in this situation, reputation means everything ' a high-profile player is at a great disadvantage. And, like her reputation or loathe her reputation, Wie is certainly high-profile.
Wie left the tournament at peace with herself. She didn't fault the officials. But at the same time, there has to be some doubt that there really WAS an infraction.
'It was yesterday, it's not like it was from today,' Wie said afterwards Sunday night. 'It's from yesterday. It was all guesswork where the ball was, where the ball was yesterday, where the ball was originally in the bushes.'
She abided completely by the rules, however, saying the arbiters were doing the best they could with the facts as they could be determined. Everyone, it seems, was left with a foggy definition of what really transpired.
Rules are meant to be followed ' absolutely. But should there not be an end-of-day statute of limitations, a time beyond which all play is considered final? Again, the rules officials are only doing their job ' the real beef here is with the tour itself. But an infraction which does not come to light until after the round is already completed and the scorecard signed ought to not be held against the performer; at the very least, a round should be declared in the books and valid by the time a competitor tees it for his/her next round.
Something should done whereby the entire field plays by the same standards. And if it cant be done ' and believe me, it cant - then it seems unfair to judge the high-profile players by a much harsher measuring stick.
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