Timely Issues


WGC-Bridgestone - 125wCHASKA, Minn. ' Golf clings to rules like scandals to Illinois politicians and paternity suits to Maury Povich Show extras.
What they sometimes lack by way of common sense they more than make up for in timeliness (see Mike Weir 2009 Canadian Open) and relevancy (Sundays stopwatch on the final two-ball at Firestone). But they are rules and it is what separates golf from the likes of football or NASCAR, where cheating is not only accepted but seemingly encouraged.
Padraig Harrington Tiger Woods WGC
Tiger Woods is congratulated by Padraig Harrington on the 18th hole during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitationa (Getty Images)

Tiger Woods point is valid, and not just because he carries the games biggest stick. Sundays showdown at Firestone with Padraig Harrington had all the trappings of an instant classic until John Paramor, a European Tour rules officials working the World Golf Championship, warned the days marquee pairing that they were on the clock for slow play on the pivotal 16th hole.
Woods respect for Harrington runs deep, maybe deeper than any other card-carrying member on a Tour range, and the moment was ripe for something special with the world No. 1 trailing the resurgent Irishman by one stroke with three holes to play.
The winner was not going to come from the groups ahead . . . and we were having a great battle, Woods said Tuesday at Hazeltine National, echoing his sentiments from two days earlier.
If Paddy does not hit the ball in the water we play up, we are right behind the group in front of us. (Being put on the clock) certainly affected how Paddy played the hole and the outcome of the tournament.
Harrington was more diplomatic, saying he didnt rush any of his eight shots on the hole that ultimately cost him the tournament, but history suggests it was in the back of a very deep mind.
Following his dramatic victory at last years British Open at Royal Birkdale Harrington spoke at length about how hard he worked to become a faster player. A stopwatch at a key juncture was always going to alter his game. How could it do anything but throw him off?
For that, Woods, even in victory, was put out, going so far as to quasi apologize to Harrington.
I'm sorry that (Paramor) got in the way of a great battle because it was such a great battle for 16 holes, and we're going at it head-to-head, and unfortunately that happened, he told Harrington at Firestone.
Woods disappointment is certainly understandable. Those watching were similarly disappointed by a seemingly silly ruling at the worst possible moment. Even Woods post-round comments regarding the incident were understandable. But none of that changes the fact that the rule regarding pace of play is rather specific, if not a bit soft on habitual violators.
I talked to (Paramor) today, Stewart Cink said. They have to look the rest of the field in the eye. If they didn't put them on the clock, if the field came up and said, Hey those guys were a hole and a half behind, how come they weren't timed? They have to be ready for that.
Brandt Snedeker can relate. During the final round of last years Masters he and Trevor Immelman were put on the clock for slow play and, he said Tuesday, they should have been. Because its a rule.
It was the competitor in Woods who spoke up on Sunday ' not the worlds most recognizable athlete or the engine that drives the Tour bus ' and it is impossible to criticize him for speaking his mind.
Nor can Paramor or any of the Tours tournament staff be blasted for enforcing a rule with little gray area. Where this story goes sour, however, is the fallout and chain reaction Woods comments have caused.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that an unidentified Tour official said Woods would be fined for publicly criticizing an official. Arguing balls and strikes is part of sport, has been since grown men started hitting round balls with round bats. A mandated muzzle only gives the entire affair an unnecessary heavy hand.
The report was twisted even further on Tuesday when Woods denied he was going to be fined.
Ive heard from the Tour and theres no fine, he said. (It) was an erroneous report.
The Tour doesnt talk fines or disciplinary action. Its policy, particularly when the subject is Woods, Tiger, and the circuit scrambled Tuesday to plug the hole in the S.S. Ponte Vedra Beach.
The information that was conveyed to the reporter was inaccurate, said Ty Votaw, the Tours executive vice president of communications. There has been no process started with respect to any disciplinary action. Based on the reports we have read, Tigers comments related to the impact of the decision. We did not read them as being disparaging.
The Associated Press, however, doesnt run stories based on a hunch or shaky sources. If there were a fine, and APs follow up to the original story maintained the original Tour officials claim, and the circuit did a 180 to protect the games alpha male they run the risk of creating Tiger Rules, golfs version of the preferential treatment Michael Jordan received during the height of his popularity, and alienating the membership.
It is the only portion of this unfortunate episode that slips into the unsavory, and the only part that will never be fully understood. Lost in all this are Tour officials, who are doing what they are paid to do. Officials, by the way, whose jobs just got a lot more difficult.
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