I watched much of the PGA tournament yesterday and marvelled at the talent on display…even though I am not a golfer. I don’t even play one on television. I was amazed, however, at what seemed a truly bumbled approach to the penalty stroke situation involving the eventual winner.
The tape of the incident did not show any contact with the ball. The club head was grounded some two or more inches behind the ball. The ball did appear to move. The player reported this to a PGA official as he was required to do. The PGA official later indicated that a single stroke penalty might be assessed but that this would not be known for sure until the match was over. (In reality, the penalty stroke was assessed before the match ended but long after the warning had been issued.)
So, the eventual champion had to compartmentalize this issue beside all the regular issues a pro golfer has to handle and finish the tournament without permitting this warning of a possible penalty stroke to bother him on any or all of the rest of his strokes to the end of the match.
The leader managed his nerves and was the eventual victor and the penalty stroke, which was assessed, did not have a direct bearing on who was victorious. The golfers chasing the winner were having their own issues and the penalty did not help or hinder anyone.
If the PGA official did what was done because it is the way the PGA says it should be done, that needs to be changed by the PGA. Such a situation should’ve been handled on the spot with the offending player knowing what the cost to him was to be, and the outcome should’ve been communicated to every golfer yet to finish the round as soon after the penalty had been issued as possible since it might have affected their approach to the match, as well.
Nerves play a huge role in the outcome of this game, especially when this game is played at this level of competence. Nerves have cost almost every golfer strokes or wins or both. We saw that with the second-place finisher yesterday. The idea that some may have known while others may not have known is not equal treatment of all players.
In the final analysis, this penalty stroke had no visible impact on the outcome of this match. It could’ve had an impact by costing the winner a stroke or two on his margin of victory but he still won. The handling of this situation by the PGA officials leaves a great deal to be desired. It was handled like a hot potato for minutes, then the prospective penalty was made known but the idea it might not be levied was left with the player.
Professional golfers are people who live with nerves every day they play the game when the game counts for something. Nerves may well have determined more golfing match outcomes than has golfing skill alone. There is no room for such “sort of” warnings that could significantly affect outcomes to be a part of a PGA tournament, especially when caused by the way a PGA official handles or doesn’t handle prospective issues during the match.