2004: Tale of tape no good for golf

Television has been a wonderful boon for golf, offering worldwide exposure and providing vast revenues that have helped increase purses to astronomical heights. But two incidents last week on opposite sides of the globe are examples that television cameras and broadcasters sometimes play an unwelcome – and unfair – role.

At the Qatar Masters on the PGA European Tour, Miguel Angel Jimenez was disqualified just before teeing off in the final round for signing an incorrect scorecard the previous day. The DQ was called after Jimenez and PGA European Tour senior referee Andy McFee studied television coverage of an incident at the 12th hole during the third round.

Jimenez’s ball moved as he took a practice swing near the green before chipping. But Jimenez contended that the ball came back to its original position. He conferred with his fellow competitors, played his shot, finished the round and signed his scorecard.

However, the next day, when McFee and Jimenez spent an hour looking at videotape of the incident, McFee concluded that the ball could not have returned to its exact original position and disqualified Jimenez for signing an incorrect scorecard.

McFee said he wanted to side with the player but had an obligation to protect the field. As a result, the Spaniard paid a costly price, as his disqualification may alter his world ranking enough to keep him out of the field at The Players Championship and the Masters.

Two days earlier, at the Honda Classic, NBC broadcaster Roger Maltbie, serving as on-course announcer for USA Network, was involved in a situation in which he counseled Greg Norman on the rules during the second round.

Norman thought he hit his original tee shot into a water hazard on the 13th hole, then re-teed a “provisional” ball he was not entitled to play. He proceeded to play his first ball and made bogey 5 – though that ball no longer was in play, as Maltbie pointed out to him. Norman could have returned to play the second ball, and would have been hitting his sixth shot from the fairway. Instead, he opted to hop in a cart, accept his DQ and head to the parking lot.

Maltbie’s heart and intentions may have been right – he said he was trying to save Norman from disqualification – but there was a bigger question raised: Does Maltbie, or any announcer, have any business involving himself in such a way that might alter the outcome of the tournament?

We hardly think that’s in his job description.

And what if the cameras had not been pointed at Jimenez as he played his third-round chip at Qatar, where he was in contention? He’d have talked to his competitors, and convinced he was in the right, played on.

Unless every shot of a tournament is being taped, which of course is next-to-impossible, then videotaped reviews should be eliminated. What other sport allows for potentially millions of armchair referees at home? Until every shot by every player is filmed, you simply don’t have a level, equitable playing field.

The cameras – and the broadcasters – are allowed inside the ropes to cover the event.

Not to alter its outcome.

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