Solution to rules problems? Assess strokes, don't DQ

Camilo Villegas was disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after a rules violation in the opening round. It was caught by a TV viewer who called in the infraction.

Camilo Villegas was disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after a rules violation in the opening round. It was caught by a TV viewer who called in the infraction.

In light of last week’s controversial disqualifications of Camilo Villegas and Robert Rohanna, I offer this simple solution to the U.S. Golf Association:

If a penalty is discovered after a player signs his or her card, simply assess the penalty strokes. Don’t DQ the player for signing for a lower score (which was, in fact, correct when he or she signed their card).

You see, Villegas and Rohanna were not disqualified because of their on-course actions. Their infractions usually would only require strokes to be added to their scores.

However, because they were unaware of the penalty strokes at the time they signed their cards, they were disqualified for signing for a score lower than they actually made. If their infractions had been discovered before they signed their cards, they would’ve just added the strokes to their card and kept on playing.

These disqualifications were more a matter of timing than unlawful actions.

Under my proposal, the statute of limitations on adding penalty strokes should expire when the following round begins, so that the player, and the rest of the field, knows where everyone stands when they tee off.

Many people opposed to Villegas’ DQ took exception with the way it was discovered. They don’t think television viewers should be allowed to call in infractions. I say Villegas committed a penalty, and should be punished accordingly.

Because golf isn’t confined to a small playing field, rules officials can’t cover all of the action. TV viewers help protect the field from improprieties, whether accidental or intentional.

It’s hard for me to sympathize with the players in these situations. They wouldn’t make these mistakes if they knew had better knowledge of the rules of the sport they play for a living. They’d know what actions are allowed and act accordingly.

Villegas and Rohanna shouldn’t have been penalized for the timing of their rulings, though. At the time they signed their cards, their scores were correct. It’s not their fault the rulings came after they turned in their scorecards.

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