Dubai spitting fine breaks with golf protocol

Tiger Woods

Unlike other sports that report disciplinary actions and fines handed down by a league against a player, the major professional golf tours have been reluctant to do so.

That makes Tiger Woods’ fine by the European Tour for spitting on a green at Dubai last week all the more curious. The news was communicated by the European Tour to a journalist.

It was even more curious when the PGA Tour reported Woods’ fine not only on its website but also in its Twitter feed.

The European Tour has a policy of not disclosing disciplinary actions as a matter of policy but will answer a question truthfully about a disciplinary matter if asked. In Woods’ case, the European Tour was contact by a journalist in Ireland about the possibility and was provided with an e-mail response by Frances Jennings of the tour’s communications staff.

“The Tournament Director, Mike Stewart, has reviewed the incident and feels there has been a Breach of the Tour Code of Conduct and consequently Tiger Woods will be fined,” the statement read. “The Tour will not be publicizing the amount of the fine.”

If the timing of the fine -- levied a day after the event -- seemed curious, the tour’s Roddy Williams offered an explanation via e-mail to Golfweek: Stewart left Dubai immediately right after the event and didn’t look at the tape until Monday.

“Incidents such as this are generally not reviewed immediately on a Sunday when the tournament is drawing to its conclusion and there is so much else is going on, “ Williams said in his e-mail. “Hence reviewed on return. If it is not a rules breach, which has to be acted on immediately.”

The PGA Tour, in comparison, does not even disclose whether a disciplinary action has occurred.

Consider commissioner Tim Finchem’s discussion about Tour policy regarding John Daly’s suspension at the Mercedes Championship in 2009:

“One, we don’t feel like people really care that much. We don’t get e-mails from fans saying, ‘Why don’t you tell us?’ So we don’t think there’s this hunger for that information.

“Two, candidly, we don’t have that much of it, and we don’t want to remind people about it. I’m just being straightforward. If somebody -- and remember, now, in our sport, a bad thing is a bad word; it’s not getting indicted, usually; it’s a bad word -- but we don’t want to remind people by saying, we fined such-and-such a player $5,000 for saying a bad word. It’s just reminding them that he said a bad word.

“In most cases, people don’t know he said a bad word; somebody was standing at the ropes, a marshal or a fan who brought it to our attention, for a fellow competitor, and the player got fined. So usually it’s a very small amount of people that know about the kind of infractions that we get, and we see no reason to publicize it.”

Finchem was right on his analysis as the Woods spitting incident went viral in hurry via Twitter, and the video of Woods’ expectoration running continuously.

Still, the PGA Tour was somewhat complicit in that part of the process by running the story and tweeting about it, as well.

“We waited to put up the story until we saw a response from Tiger,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president. “As soon as we saw his tweet, we ran the story.”

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