Monday, March 19, 2018

PGA Tour to review policy for fan reports of rules violations

ATLANTA — PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem indicated the tour's policy board would discuss amending the procedure that allows anyone, even TV viewers, to submit evidence a player might be guilty of a rules violation.

One possibility is limiting the scope of information considered before declaring a result official, he said as the tour prepared to begin its season-ending Tour Championship today at East Lake Golf Club. "All the other sports close their books quicker than we do, so to speak," Finchem said Tuesday.

He expressed concern about the fairness of the format, in part because some players, such as Tiger Woods, are on TV more. "I don't like it sometimes," Finchem said, yet alluded to golf's foundation of adherence to the letter of the law.

The field could be leveled for all players if technology advances to where a camera is aimed at every shot, Finchem said. At the same time, tournament offices might require a phone bank to answer all the calls about potential violations.

The policy board meets in November.

Woods has been involved in three high-profile rules infractions this year. He met with Finchem before his news conference Wednesday at the Tour Championship and advocated a time limit on calling in potential infractions.

"With HDTV … that's been a huge transition," he said. "I think that there are certainly a lot more viewer call-ins, and I think what people don't realize is that our rules staff gets quite a few calls every week. A lot of them never see the light of day, but they're handled with the players.

"It's a new age in which there is a lot of cameras that are around — well, around my group and then some of the top players. I think the commissioner was right."

Woods got a two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship on Friday after a video showed he caused his ball to move behind the first green during the second round. Woods believed the ball only "oscillated," which would have meant no penalty. The video was shot by a tour entertainment crew and the infraction noticed by the person editing the tape.

Woods' other penalties were at the Abu Dhabi Championship, where an improper drop cost him two shots, and the Masters, where he didn't drop close enough to his original spot when replaying a shot that went into a water hazard.

The Masters was the only infraction called in by a TV viewer, and it wasn't brought to Woods' attention until after he signed his card. Because the penalty strokes were not added to his score, Woods signed an incorrect card and should have been disqualified. But Masters officials added the strokes because they believed they were in error for not bringing the information to Woods' attention, and they decided not to disqualify him under a rule that protects a player who did not know he violated a rule before signing and later was reported to have done so by a TV viewer.