There’s a big difference between cheating and failing to take proper action. Same goes for just losing one’s temper compared to disrespecting others in the process.
Sometimes, the tale of the tape says it all.
The latest backstopping controversy (LPGA edition) and Bryson DeChambeau outburst drove the news cycle heading into the weekend and points to a larger issue in golf.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not Ariya Jutanugarn intended to help Amy Olson by leaving her ball unmarked on the 18th green on Friday in Thailand. Nor does it matter whether Matt Kuchar thought he was leaving an appropriate tip for a temporary caddie at Mayakoba, or if J.B. Holmes thought he was playing at an appropriate pace in the final round at Riviera.
What matters is that these things were either broadcast live or brought to light on our Twitter feeds. We watched and we judged. The days of keeping things in-house are long gone, and for better or worse, players should operate under the assumption that they’re being watched at all times.
That’s exactly what the PGA Tour wants, right?
Fans are now allowed to film every shot at tournaments, hundreds of hours are streamed on PGA Tour Live and the end product is a lot different than the tight, four-hour broadcasts we grew up with.
It’s all about audience expansion, and with that comes new methods that provide a glimpse at how the sausage is made. It will continue trending heavily in this direction as commissioner Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour higher-ups explore multiple-screen feeds and more ala carte options.
On the women’s side, the Olson-Jutanugarn backstopping controversy only became a thing because the cameras were rolling when it happened live. The footage made its way to Twitter and fed a passionate group that’s argued back-and-forth on backstopping for years. It’s real inside baseball stuff, but it’s also becoming mainstream. You’ll hear broadcasters mention it on air and you’ll certainly see images and video tweeted out should anyone spot an offending party.
Rather than get caught up in all the minutiae, it was easy to watch Olson’s ball collide with Jutanugarn’s and understand why it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I don’t consider what they did to be full-on cheating, but it’s so easily avoidable and creates a competitive advantage for one player.
DeChambeau provided a more open-and-shut case, and he’s amassed quite a highlight reel of caught-on-camera freak-outs.
The 25-year-old just happened to be standing in the background of a Sky Sports broadcast when he slammed his putter into the practice green at the WGC-Mexico Championship. This just a week after PGA Tour Live cameras were rolling when he took a chunk out of the side of a bunker with his wedge.
The optics aren’t good and the disrespect toward groundskeepers everywhere is real. Same goes for Sergio Garcia’s bunker breakdown in Saudi Arabia.
Players used to have good-guy images, some seemingly at all costs. Their time in the public eye was relatively small and we often saw whatever we were supposed to see, genuine or not.
Nowadays, players have reputations. They’re judged by private words and actions that escape the Tour safe space and become public in a number of different ways. There’s no more controlling the message once a video or narrative gains serious online traction.
Olson and Jutanugarn learned that lesson the hard way this week. DeChambeau is well aware of it by now.
I don’t mean to condemn their behavior and cry out for penalty strokes or anger management. That’s Twitter’s job.
The bottom line is that golf is increasingly pulling back the curtain with live streaming and social media, and the results aren’t always player-friendly. Gwk