Stewart Cink is not the one to be taken to task here. If he had not used the ambiguities inherent in the local rules surrounding waste areas, another player would have.
It was a ticking time bomb. And now it needs to be defused.
The PGA Tour needs to throw rakes into the waste areas at Harbour Town next year in order to create hazards and prevent what happened two Sundays ago.
That Cink flicked and brushed away loose impediments in a waste bunker on the fifth hole of a playoff at the MCI Heritage - that what he did is now infamous in golf circles - is not his fault and should never have been allowed to happen.
That Ted Purdy, the biggest loser of the moment in all of this, screeched loudly and longly is to be commended. The hope is that the squeaky wheel will get the WD-40.
Tom Meeks, the USGAs senior rules guy, warned the golf world about the potential for this abuse almost 10 years ago in what amounted to a position paper that was published in the Golf Journal. Meeks decried waste areas because, among other things, they werent covered in the rules of golf.
Waste areas were born back in the late 60s when course architect Pete Dye was creating the Harbour Town Golf Links. He didnt mean for them to become an integral part of the golf landscape. But they did. And players were allowed to tidy the hitting area around their golf balls.
Waste areas came into vogue at Dyes Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. where the Players Championship takes place every March. But the Tour quietly and smartly changed the landscape at the Stadium Course. They foresaw the potential for disaster. They declared all the waste areas to be hazards. They threw rakes onto the sand and the shells and they told players not to touch anything.
Cink knew what he did at Harbour Town would come under close and televised scrutiny. Thats why he asked rules official Slugger White what he could and couldnt do before he ever got near his ball at the 16th. White told him correctly and subsequently ruled correctly.
And it all looked awful because it couldnt look anything but. Imagine what Times Square would be like if, one week of the year, motorists were allowed to run red lights and traffic cops were there to enforce this temporary madness. A lot of pedestrians would get run over.
In this case, the pedestrians name was Ted Purdy. He finished second to Cink.
The golf world will move on and away from this. It has been hashed and rehashed ad nauseam. If any of Cinks fellow players are inclined to freeze him out on the range or anywhere else, they should be remindedThere but for the grace of God
The scary part is the realization that there are currently waste areas at Whistling Straits where the PGA of America will stage the PGA Championship in August.
The suggestion here is that the PGA of America fill those waste areas with rakes. Allowing players to touch loose impediments is playing fast and loose with the spirit of the rules of the game.
The lesson of Harbour Town is that a lack of hazards can be hazardous to the health of golf.
A waste is a terrible thing to mind.
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