Golf notebook: Why didn't rules official help Woods?

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More than a week after it happened and became the buzz of the golf world, many questions remain over the two-stroke penalty Tiger Woods received for making the wrong drop in the second round of the Masters.

One of the most-asked questions is where was the rules official who was stationed on that hole?

Why didn't the rules official assist Woods to make sure he was making the proper drop -- i.e., dropping the ball "as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played," according to Rule 26-1a. The violation was detected only after Woods said in a television interview after the round that he dropped 2 yards farther from his original spot.

"Any time an official is in position to help a player, he should," said Jeff Rivard, executive director of the West Penn Golf Association and a longtime rules official for United States Golf Association events. "It's very much standard operating procedure."

But here's another question: Where were Woods' playing partners, Luke Donald and Scott Piercy? Why didn't they make sure Woods was dropping from the right spot -- thereby saving him from a two-shot penalty but, more important, protecting the rest of the field from a rules violation?

After all, isn't that their job, too?

Consider what happened to Arnold Palmer in the 1963 Bing Crosby pro-am at Pebble Beach:

Palmer hit his tee shot on to the rocks near the 17th green. Back then, the ocean wasn't a hazard, so Palmer thought he had lost his ball and hit a provisional ball on the green.

After finding the first ball in the water and determining it was unplayable, he proceeded to play out the hole with the provisional ball, finished the round and posted his score.

The next morning, Dave Hill, who was playing with Palmer, went to a PGA Tour official and said he thought Palmer had inadvertently violated the unplayable ball rule. Rule 27-2c states that if the original ball "is neither lost nor out of bounds, the player must abandon the provisional ball and continue playing the original."

Hill was right and Palmer was disqualified because he had signed for the wrong score. That is believed to be the only time Palmer was disqualified from a professional tournament.

Woods didn't have to worry about being disqualified because of a rule that was amended in 2012 to protect players who have a violation detected after their round has ended. The player is still penalized two shots, but he can't be disqualified.

But there has been some speculation by people with knowledge of the rules whether that rule -- Rule 33-7 -- was even applicable in this instance.

Because the competition committee had reviewed the infraction while Woods was still playing the 18th hole and decided incorrectly at that point that no violation had occurred, the mistake was on the part of the committee. Fred Ridley, head of the competition committee, said they did not alert Woods of the breach because they believed no violation had occurred.

The infraction was apparently reported in a phone call from a person who was a friend of a rules official.

Had the competition committee made the correct ruling at the time, its members could have alerted Woods of the violation before he signed his scorecard and tacked on the two-shot penalty at that point.

When they corrected their previous incorrect ruling Saturday morning, it would have been unfair at that point to disqualify Woods because of the committee's initial mistake. Woods could have argued, and justifiably so, that he could have signed for the adjusted score with penalty had the committee made the correct ruling the first time and informed him of the violation when he was done with his round.

In the end, the decision over Woods' bad drop was correct. It was how they arrived at the decision and the actions by everyone -- the rules official, the playing partners, the competition committee, Woods himself -- that was flawed.

Hidden hints

Matt Kluck, a PGA master professional from Mt. Lebanon, has been thinking of ways to keep young players interested in the way they practice while at the same time developing their games. And he wanted them to have fun while they were doing it.

So he and Dennis Sweeney, an industrial psychologist from Upper St. Clair, came up with "Golf's Missing Links," a series of books with what they call "stealthy" ways to improve your game. The idea is to have golfers play different skill games involving putting, chipping, pitching and bunker shots that are actually designed to improve different aspects of their game.

"We call it stealthy ways because we kind of sneak up on you -- you don't know you're learning when you are," Kluck said. "One of the things we found with practice is lot of times people don't know what to practice. These games kind of give you an idea what to practice."

The idea was hatched after observing a talented young player who didn't like to practice, especially the short game. Kluck enlisted Sweeney's help to devise a game that would make it more enjoyable for the student to practice without him really knowing he was improving his short-game skill.

The package of "Golf's Missing Links" includes six booklets for the different types of games to play, a book that summarizes the information and details how to practice, and a performance diary to track results. Those who are interested can go to 101gamesforgolf.com.

"It's not a method of how to swing, it's more skill acquisition-based and how can you do better faster," Kluck said. "I don't think we really need another how-to book. We needed a book on how to become better faster."

Dissa and data

Robert Morris University men's and women's golf coach Jerry Stone was named the Tri-State PGA Teacher of the Year. Stone has been a teaching professional at Scally's Golf Center in Moon since 1995 and has been the head coach of both teams at RMU since 2001. Stone is the first coach in Northeast Conference history to be named both the NEC Men's Coach of the Year and the NEC Women's Coach of the Year in the same year (2009-10). .... The Woodland Hills High School golf team is staging a team skins game May 25 at Grand View GC to raise money for its program. The event is a two-man scramble with cash prizes. Each hole will have an official scorer. Entry is $80 and includes skins entry and lunch. Call the Grand View pro shop for info: 412-351-5390.

mobilehome - golf

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac. Listen to "The Golf Show with Gerry Dulac" every Thursday, 7-8:30 p.m., on 970 ESPN.


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