If you don’t like seeing all those caddies in the women’s game lining up players before shots, you had to love seeing Si Woo Kim’s caddie lining him up at the Sony Open.
Why? Because we’re more likely to see a vigorous debate erupt over whether the practice ought to be banned if it becomes an issue in the men’s game, too. Because there will be more disgust among the majority of men seeing it in the men’s game.
There are a couple reasons for that.
First, you just don’t see it in the men’s game like you do in the women’s game. It sticks out as more questionable. Yes, there are women who don’t like it. Count Dottie Pepper, Laura Davies, Catriona Matthew and Stacy Lewis among the outspoken who think the rules should be changed to forbid the practice, but we’re used to seeing it in the women’s game. Plus, there’s a larger audience in the men’s game, an audience unaccustomed to seeing a caddie line up a man before a shot.
If you were watching this weekend after Kim got into contention, you noticed, because it really seemed odd for a PGA Tour or European Tour telecast. If you watch the women’s game regularly, you may not like seeing caddies helping players align their stances before a shot, but there’s nothing odd about it. You see it every telecast.
Yes, there’s something sexist about this supposition. You know, It’s OK for the women to do it, but men don’t do that. It’s just not manly. And of course, it’s not a gender-based issue. If there is something fundamentally wrong about a caddie lining up a man for a shot, there’s something wrong about a caddie lining up a woman.
“It’s a basic part of golf, alignment,” Laura Davies said not so long ago. “You’re not allowed to get a grip that’s perfectly set for you, so why should you have someone stand behind you and tell you where to aim? I don’t understand why the USGA and the R&A haven’t sussed that one out yet, because it just seems basic to me. And it slows the game down.”
Pepper is just as strong in her criticism.
“Lining up the shot is the player’s responsibility. Period,” Pepper wrote in an ESPN column just a couple weeks ago. “It is part of being a golfer, part of playing the game. You can have all the help you want on the practice range, but get at it and get at it by yourself on the course. It not only looks bad to the television viewer, but also gives the impression that the player isn't in command of his or her game.”
Kim is an exception in the men’s game, but if he keeps getting himself in contention on television, keeps giving himself chances to win, there’s going to be a bigger stink about this.