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Two Cents Worth of the Road Less Traveled

All right, enough already!
In the last two days, Ive read and seen entirely too many accounts of the Cink vs. Purdy playoff at the Heritage.
Rules, rules, rules. Ive read them all and the ensuing decisions that are applicable. Ive read every story about whether or not armchair officials should have their phone calls answered. Ive learned all I possibly could, which is 100 times more than I ever cared to know.
Of course, I have an opinion, and at the end of this article, hopefully it will seem rational. Because, my interest in these events wasnt originally based on rationale - it was based on instinct.
Instinctively, what Stewart Cink did behind his ball at Harbour Town was wrong. Ill get into the rules in a moment, but as a player, his actions violated the spirit of the rules that professional golf so cherishes and often touts as what separates professional golf from all other sports. Yes, the rules are there to work for you as well as against you, but they were taken advantage of in this case.
The rules surrounding this are extremely gray, primarily because there is no such thing as a 'waste area' in the rules of golf. This term was evidently invented by the PGA Tour and/or Pete Dye as a way of explaining lack of maintenance in a bunker. However, the rules of golf can be interpreted broadly enough in this case to allow for Cinks actions to be legit. But they can easily be interpreted to find Cink in violation of rule 13-2 and assessed a two-stroke penalty.
PGA Tour official Slugger White has used an analogy in explanation of the waste area being played as 'through the green' that I find troubling. 'If the ball were imbedded in there, the player would be granted relief,' Slugger said to media sources Sunday evening.
If that is the case, do you have any idea how long a round of golf would take there? Every time the player drops it, its going to re-embed. Heck, hell have to drop it 1000 times until he reaches the edge of the grass, because the rules state you must drop it as near as possible to where it was imbedded. The one-club length relief rule does not apply here.
Call it a waste area if you must, but dont call it 'through the green.' Certain rules of equanimity must still apply.
If Cink hadnt asked Slugger what he could or couldnt do before entering the 'area,' would Slugger have seen the video and still not penalized Cink?
And come to think of it, why in the world does Cink play this tournament for 324 holes, which includes four previous years, 72 holes of regulation, and four previous playoff holes, before asking a rules official what the rules allow for in the 'area?' Were other players allowed to do the same? If indeed every bit of material making up the 'waste area' is loose impediment as Slugger stated to me, 'other than some loose soil and sand possibly near the bottom,' then why wasnt every player made aware of this on the local rules sheet? Why not tell them they can legally tee it up?
If its all loose impediment and Cink acted within the rules, then next year I think the entire field will be aiming for the waste areas. Thats how ludicrous this ruling is. It simply was wrong. After all, rules officials are human, too.
Im not out for blood here, and Im not out to tarnish Cinks win'it was an amazing round of golf on Sunday. Im trying to do what the rules officials take pride in, and that which the rules are specifically designed to do'to protect the other players in the field. This is exactly why I support the use of replay. If an incident is caught on camera that protects the rest of the field against an indiscretion, then it should be enforced by any means. The reverse is at work here.
The rules actually do protect Slugger and Cink if they insist on sticking with this ruling, but in doing so, an injustice is served to Ted Purdy and the rest of the players in the field who didnt clear our trenches behind the ball when they were in the 'areas'. Maybe they didnt take full advantage of the rules the way Stewart did (many comments have suggested this and drawn similarities to Tiger and the rock at the Phoenix Open), but maybe they knew they werent supposed to.
Like I said in the beginning, my opinion is based on instinct. The rules arent. However, when apathy wins, everyone else loses.
All the other armchair rulings Ive witnessed over the years seem different. Does a towel under Stadlers knees aid in his shot? Of course not. Does the divot a foot or so right of Duffys lie in the fairway last year really distract him or hinder his swing path? Once again, a ludicrous supposition. But in this case, as a former player and having consulted with many a player from this years field, Stewarts shot into the green would have, at best, finished on the back of the green without the aid of an improved lie. This ruling directly affected the outcome. Therein lies my objection.
Hopefully, directions to the high road are still available.
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