Eight other ‘spirit of the rules’ violations

Caddie Fluff Cowen looks at a boulder near the ball of Tiger Woods during the 1999 Phoenix Open.

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Those NASCAR diehards disguised as friends who stole five hours of my life that can never be retrieved? It’s payback time.

They once sat me in a room full of fume-inhaling compatriots and talked endlessly about restrictor plates and wedge-hedge engines, of cambers and roof flaps, and the controversy to end controversies, something they called “racing back to the flag.”

Can’t remember all the details, but it went something like this: Some driver wearing ads all over his car and body beat another driver wearing ads all over his car and body by passing after a cute little yellow flag had been waved, which is apparently second only to taking Richard Petty’s name in vain. Seems there’s a gentlemen’s agreement not to do it, but it’s not against the rules if you do it.

Kind of like non-conforming clubs being within the rules, eh?

This is where payback enters the picture. Gonna set the table, invite over the NASCAR pals, and toss a little V-groove/square-groove at ’em, along with a heavy dose of flyer lies and spin-rate, then come at ’em with the clincher, stuff about how it’s not right to use non-conforming clubs, even if they’re not against the rules.

See how they like it.

Probably won’t, and who came blame them? Sure does make a game we love so much seem so, well . . . silly is the word that comes to mind first, although ridiculous is close. Yet, on and on it goes, and if you want one man’s opinion as to how far down this topic has dragged our game, here goes: Promulgate.

Good gracious, Bernard Darwin, Henry Longhurst, Peter Dobereiner, and Herbert Warren Wind scripted the greatest golf writings we will ever read without ever once using the word promulgate. Pretty sure that Dan Jenkins never felt the need to type in promulgate, either.

Yet it’s become quite chic to cover this “Grooves mania” by showing off the word promulgate. Remember when golf stories were about birdies, bogeys, and caddies’ funny tales? Today it’s grooves, cheating, and slander.

Oh, and something about “spirit of the rules.”

When that appeared in so many stories, the search was on for a printed copy. Dust was moved to find a copy of the “Rules of Golf,” but nowhere was “Spirit of the Rules” discovered. That’s because, or so a friend suggested, that “Spirit of the Rules” is a subjective thought process, one golfer’s interpretation of a rule’s intent, and totally dependent upon how good, ol’-fashioned conscience is put to use.

Fine, then. That being the case, here’s one man’s sentiment that using these pre-1990 wedges indeed goes against the spirit of the new grooves rule. Here’s hoping players abide by the non-conforming aspect of the clubs as opposed to something that’s hanging by an asterisk, barely within the rules.

The only thing is, before you consider the matter closed, there is a long of list of matters this space will bring up since we’re on the topic of “spirit of the rules.”

photo

Casey Martin had to use a cart at the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, initially using a one-man cart that couldn't hold up with the rough terrain.

For instance:

• Doesn’t seem to me that the rules were meant to deny a special person such as Casey Martin a spot on the PGA Tour. Certainly, many Tour loyalists did embrace the spirit of the rule back then, did they?

• Oh, and the belly putter. Has no place in the game, though clearly it’s within the rules. Use it and hopefully your conscience is clear, because it does not fall within the boundaries for yours truly.

• But it does give a player a chance to get a more lenient drop when club lengths are involved, doesn’t it? How disconcerting.

• Of course, from this seat, it sure seems that what trumps all others when you’re talking unwritten rules is this one: You don’t ever call out an opponent. Violate this and shame on you.

• Players who spray shots left and right and then point to their X-ray vision and incredible capacity to hit a low, hard cut shot in between a cluster of trees, if only that last row of the grandstand weren’t in the way! They call it “line of sight” but loosely translated it means, “Let’s see if I can intimidate this guy into giving me a drop and get out of this self-inflicted mess.”

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Fans help move a boulder that was in the way of Tiger Woods' ball at the 1999 Phoenix Open.

• Remember that 100-ton boulder that fans moved for Tiger Woods at the Phoenix Open years ago? Nausea still lingers.

• And, sorry, but if you hit it 20, 25, even 30 yards off the fairway and into the woods, it would be nice if players embraced a bit of honor and humility and didn’t pray they discovered some “ground under repair.”

• Is that your caddie lining you up? Unless it’s to order something at In-N-Out, get his butt to the side of the tee or the collar of the green. That, too, violates the spirit of the rules.

We could throw in a few more, but by now you get the point. It’s a difficult enough landscape even when a rule book is available, damn impossible when a conscience is the guide.

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