Tait: Dyson might win, but peers will remain wary
Simon Dyson is trying to make amends for past sins the best way he knows how: with his golf clubs.
The Englishman returned opening rounds of 65 and 68 in the Tshwane Open to get to 11 under par and in contention to win his seventh European Tour title. It marks a small step on his road to redemption, although Dyson probably never will be fully forgiven for his act of lunacy in 2013.
The 36-year-old is on probation after being found guilty of knowingly breaking the rules during last season’s BMW Masters in Shanghai. Dyson was caught tapping down a spike mark on his putting line during the second round. He was disqualified from the tournament.
• Ross Fisher leads Tshwane Open by 1 after 2 rounds
At a three-man European Tour disciplinary hearing in December, Dyson was found to have knowingly broken the rules but was cleared of premeditated cheating. He was handed a suspended two-month ban and put on 18 months' probation. He also was fined 30,000 euros and had to pay 7,500 euros in court costs.
If Dyson keeps his nose clean during the next 18 months, then the two-month ban will be rescinded. You can rest assured that he will be as good as gold within the ropes. As for being accepted by his peers again? Doubtful.
While Dyson might have been cleared of premeditated cheating, the fact he was found to have purposely broken the rules has given him a life sentence. Many European Tour pros are angry that he wasn’t given a stiffer penalty. They thought he should have been treated the same as Elliot Saltman. The Scotsman was banned for three months in 2011 after having been found to have cheated during the 2010 Russian Challenge Cup.
Dyson therefore became the fourth European Tour player to suffer disciplinary action for a rules violation, following Saltman, Sweden’s Johan Tumba and John Robertson of Scotland.
The three-man disciplinary panel was lenient on Dyson because of his good conduct during his previous 14-year career. Technically that was correct. However, as Golfweek previously reported, Dyson was investigated for a rules infraction in Portugal in 2009. The Englishman was penalized two shots after being deemed to have improved his lie after his ball ended up at the base of a bush.
The European Tour’s 15-man tournament committee considered the breach serious enough to discuss it at a committee meeting and wanted to discipline Dyson. The committee consulted European Tour chief referee John Paramor, but no further action was taken. Although the incident was caught on video, the camera angle did not provide conclusive evidence that Dyson had intentionally sought to gain an advantage.
Dyson’s first appearance on probation came in January when he teed it up in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He said his peers had warmly received him. Yet the mood amongst European Tour pros with whom Golfweek spoke was anything but forgiving. In fact, it was just the opposite. While no one was prepared to talk on the record after being told to toe the party line by European Tour officials, it was obvious that many Euro Tour members were not happy to have him back in the ranks.
Dyson unquestionably is a good golfer. The former Walker Cup player is capable of winning this week to add to his six other tour victories. What he probably will never do is win back the hearts and minds of his peers.
Dyson’s Shanghai shame will stay with him forever.