Some rules turn classy majors into goofy golf
By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003
The golf purists will howl. They will talk about the integrity of the game, how it is played by strict rules. And those rules are sacred.
Sorry, but some are silly.
Like the one requiring players to verify their scorecard with a signature that then becomes written in stone.
What a shame that England's Mark Roe could not be part of the scene Sunday at the British Open, where he would have entered the final round two shots out of the lead and might have challenged Ben Curtis for the Claret Jug.
Instead, his 67 Saturday was washed away because of what, in essence, amounted to a clerical error. Everyone - official scorer in the group, playing partner Jesper Parnevik, computers that follow every shot - was in agreement that Roe put club to ball 67 times.
But because he and Parnevik failed to exchange scorecards on the first tee, meaning they were essentially writing down scores on the wrong cards, they were disqualified. And because the error was not noticed until after they signed, there was no recourse.
"Rules are rules and you've got to abide by them, but it seems such a silly area," Ian Woosnam said. "Mark James said on TV 50-million people were watching what he did. Everybody knows he hasn't cheated."
Woosnam is aware of costly rules violations. Two years ago at Royal Lytham, he incurred a two-stroke penalty on the first hole for an extra club in his bag. It may have cost him the British Open (he finished tied for third). But at least he still had a chance to play.
In Roe's case, he was disqualified because at least one of the scores written in a box was lower than what he shot. That calls for disqualification. The penalty is severe for the crime.
"This is the greatest tragedy in the history of the Open Championship," said Peter Dawson, secretary of the British Open's governing body, the Royal & Ancient. "We accept some of the responsibility, but not all of it."
The scorer who reviews the scorecards with players - asking them again and again if they are sure of all their scores, if they have signed the card, etc. - apparently did not notice the players did not have the proper cards. In the future, Dawson said, that will be part of the checklist.
That is too late, of course, for Roe. And why such silliness anyway? At golf's highest level, why the need for a player to keep his own score? Yes, that is the essence of the game at every other level, but here, with the eyes of the world watching, with computers and official scorekeepers, it doesn't make sense.
WHO'S HE?: Andy Sutton had no idea who this man, Ben Curtis, was - and he was about to caddie for him. Sutton didn't have a bag at the British Open, and Curtis didn't have a caddie. Curtis' management company, IMG, made some calls and the two were united the Sunday before the championship. A week later, they were enriched for the effort, as Curtis shocked the golf world by joining the most unlikely of major championship winners.
"He struck me straight away as a very genuine bloke," said Sutton, who is from England. "He has no airs or graces at all and when we met I remember thinking, "I hope he does well; he sure seems such an open and likable character."'
Curtis did his homework. When he arrived a week before the championship, he met with Royal St. George's pro Andy Brooks to learn as much about the course as he could.
"He wasn't somebody who spent hours and hours assessing every shot," Sutton said. "He basically trusted his instinct."
PLAYING FOR PAY: Ricky Barnes, last year's U.S. Amateur champion, wasted no time turning pro after missing the cut at the British Open. Before the cut was officially determined, Barnes' new management team, Gaylord Sports, had distributed the announcement. His pro debut will come at the International in two weeks. Barnes can accept up to seven sponsor exemptions in an attempt to win enough money to surpass the figure earned by last year's 125th finisher on the money list. If he does, he'll be granted unlimited exemptions.
AROUND GOLF: How tough was the back nine at Royal St. George's on Sunday? The last eight players combined for 10 birdies. ... Ty Tryon, 19, made his second cut of the year at the B.C. Open, where he tied for 31st. ... With his tie for fourth at the British Open, Davis Love went over $4-million, giving the PGA Tour three to surpass that figure for the first time. Love joins Tiger Woods and Mike Weir.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.
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