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Teeing Off: Who is to blame for rules violations?

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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Tiger Woods — Getty Images

Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we look at rules violations, who should be blamed and what is a better approach than the way we do it now.

Bacon: This past weekend was full of sports action; Novak Djokovic went five sets with an unsuspecting foe, the 49ers took down your Falcons on the road and the Baltimore Ravens pulled off an enormous upset to advance to the Super Bowl. But one thing was concluded before the weekend began; Tiger Woods would not be playing the weekend in Abu Dhabi, but not because he didn't score well enough to do so. Nope, Tiger was cut because of a rules violation on Friday. if you missed what happened, check it out right here, but basically Tiger took a drop from an area that he wasn't allowed to take a drop from. He called over playing partner Martin Kaymer and he confirmed it was okay, even though it wasn't. So I ask you, in rules violations such as this one, who is to blame? Tiger? His caddie? Kaymer? A rules official for not being right there to help out?

[Related: Bizarre penalty dooms Tiger Woods to miss cut in Abu Dhabi]

Busbee: Ah, golf. You never fail to give us some arcane dispute about rules. Golfers need to be part botanist, part meteorologist and part groundskeeper to navigate the thicket of rules. But to your point: this is fundamentally on Tiger. It's his job to make sure that he gets a rules official to sign off on this. A fellow player isn't enough. If golf is going to insist on adhering to rules, its public face -- the rules officials -- must bear the burden of getting it right. What say you?

Bacon: Here is the thing I will never understand about professional golfers - you're out there, playing for millions of bucks, and you KNOW that the Rules of Golf are goofier than a Ray Lewis pre-game dance. If it was me, and this amount of money was on the line, I'd call a rules official over at any point.

When I caddied for a LPGA friend of mine, we'd have rules questions occasionally and I always made sure if I wasn't 100 percent sure of what to say to either my player or a fellow player, we'd get a rules official over. They are on golf carts, they can zip over in a matter of seconds, and it's their job to make the right call. I agree with you that you have to blame Tiger, but is it some pride thing that these guys just make their own calls 99 percent of the time?

Busbee: Oh, of course it is. Tiger would loathe the idea of putting himself in a position to ask permission from a rules official. But he's got to think of it the way that a smart basketball coach uses the refs -- a little bit of gladhanding goes a long way.

[Related: Rory McIlroy's struggles with new Nike clubs raise concerns]

So let's spin this forward: I'm on board with the rules, and I can even understand how most of them, in theory, can apply. What I can't abide is the whole surprise-at-the-scorer's-tent nonsense. As we've said several times, the rules of golf are established not to promote play, but to constrain it, and playing gotcha at the scorer's tent is Exhibit 1. Why can't golfers be offered some sort of amnesty, even right before the tent? That might not have applied in this case, but surely there can be ways to avoid this gotcha nonsense, can't there?

Bacon: I'm right there with you on this idea. No other sport allows fans at home or random reporters to go in and rat out a player for a mistake, and while it is an option and will most likely always be an option, I think there should be a leveling of the rules to keep players from landing the full boat for something that happened hours ago (could you imagine if after the Falcons-49ers game a fan said he really thought there was pass interference on that final play and the refs just changed the call?).

While the Tiger ruling doesn't totally apply here (he got a two-shot penalty instead of being disqualified and was told about it on the 11th green), I think disqualifying someone hours after they signed their card hurts the sport more than it helps. If a player does something that is seen as a violation hours later, maybe we could penalize that person the right amount of shots and not kick them out of the event for an incorrect scorecard that was correct when they signed it.

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