Rule No. 1 for pros: Know the rules

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.

photo

Padraig Harrington of Ireland gives a press conference after being disqualified before his second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Tournament professionals should know the rules better.

How many times have I written or said that over the years?

Too many times.

The Rules of Golf have been in the spotlight for much of this young season. Disqualifications for Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington have sparked much debate about the laws that govern the game.

“The rules of golf are complete bollocks and are stuck back in 1932,” Ian Poulter tweeted in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell said: “I think we need to take a serious look at the Rules of Golf.”

I do, too. I also think many players need to take a serious look at themselves. They need to ask themselves why they don’t know the rules better.

Paul Azinger tweeted: “So many rules the players don't know them all.”

Why don’t they know them all? There are only 34.

However, I have a problem with players getting disqualified for violations they didn’t know they committed. Harrington’s misdemeanor in Abu Dhabi came to light only through slow-motion TV replay.

There was a similar case last year in Abu Dhabi involving Peter Hanson, when it was revealed he double-hit a chip on the 12th green. As with the Harrington incident, no one would have known Hanson committed the violation, not even the man himself, had it not been picked up in slow motion. Fortunately for Hanson, he still went on to win the tournament.

I do have a problem with the Villegas case, because the Colombian should have known not to move loose impediments out of the area where his ball was heading.

Villegas isn’t the first player to come unstuck because of ignorance. Sadly, he won’t be the last, either.

I’ve witnessed so many players over the years who knew they’d broken a rule, but couldn’t have pointed to it in the rule book if they’d been given an hour.

I’ve seen players ask officials how they should proceed in the simplest of rules violations, rules most high-handicappers wouldn’t think twice about properly redressing.

What I can’t understand is why players will put in eight-to-10-hour days working on their games but can’t find a few minutes each day to learn the rules. They have so much down time at tournaments that they easily could spend 10-15 minutes per day reading the rules.

They’d be surprised how quickly they’d increase their knowledge with a few minutes a day. Even if they just started with the definitions, they’d go a long way toward furthering their knowledge.

Imagine going to a lawyer to find he didn’t know the law, or an accountant who didn’t know the tax system. They wouldn’t last in their jobs.

I’ll bet the majority of tournament pros don’t even carry a rule book in their golf bags.

Ignorance is too often used as a defense when players fall foul to the rules. It’s not good enough. They should have a better knowledge of the laws of the game from which they earn their living.

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