Two Cents Worth of the Road Less Traveled
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.
Email your thoughts to Jerry Foltz
How to watch The Open on TV and online
You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.
Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie
In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.
Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:
(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)
Monday, July 16
GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tuesday, July 17
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Wednesday, July 18
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Thursday, July 19
GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Friday, July 20
GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Saturday, July 21
GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Sunday, July 22
GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.