At least in the world of politics, perception and perception-created problems can be everything.
At the moment, the PGA Tour – and some of its players — are in a rhetorical steel-cage death match against upstart LIV Golf. The PGA Tour has very publicly tried to punish any PGA Tour member who has defected to LIV.
I have stated in this space in the past that I believe it is ultimately in the best interests of the PGA Tour – and most especially golf fans the world over – if it called a truce and figured out a way to not only accept LIV Golf, but work with them in a way beneficial to all players involved.
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Unfortunately, the leadership of the PGA Tour does not, as of yet, agree with that strategy. Instead, the tour has chosen to engage in a costly legal battle with LIV as well as engage in a no-holds-barred public relations campaign, which may provide them with nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory.
So, at least metaphorically, the PGA Tour remains in an all-out war with LIV Golf. As such, an obvious question becomes: Is all fair in love and war?
As was written in Sportscasting.com on Sunday: “The PGA Tour is doing all it can to punish every player who has defected to LIV Golf, but it has a traitor in its midst threatening to tear the premiere golf league apart from the inside.”
And just who is the “traitor”? Cameron Smith of Australia who has a very legitimate chance to become the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world. And why might this be bad in the eyes of the PGA Tour? Because Smith, currently ranked second in the world, is also reportedly ready to join LIV Golf.
But, wait, at least for the PGA Tour, it can potentially get much worse. Smith is also very quickly positioning himself onto the inside track to win the FedEx Cup Playoffs and its $18 million grand prize.
Talk about a double-whammy public relations disaster for the PGA Tour. A guy about to defect to LIV Golf not only becoming the No. 1 golfer in the world, but he walks off with the FedEx Cup as well before he does.
As those two probabilities were becoming more possible for Smith, an interesting ruling took place after the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis. That interesting ruling – Smith was assessed a two-stroke penalty after the round already had been completed.
Now, according to the PGA Tour, Smith played his ball from the improper spot on the fourth hole during Saturday’s third round. The tour said Smith “was assessed a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 14.7 [playing ball from the wrong spot].”
But he was not assessed that penalty during the round.
By a coincidence, another member of the tour’s rules committee raised the alarm about Smith’s drop after watching a rebroadcast of the third round. Gary Young, the chief referee for the PGA Tour, then explained later to the media that Smith’s ball was close enough to the line “that we decided we should probably talk to the player himself.”
Should Cam Smith’s penalty have been caught immediately?
Gee, if Smith’s ball was close enough to the penalty line – and we are literally talking maybe 1/8th of an inch or less of an alleged infraction – that they “decided we should probably talk to the player himself” long after the round, couldn’t the rules officials have gone over it with Smith – who they were watching – before he struck the offending shot?
Keep in mind that beginning on January 1, 2018, the United States Golf Association along with the R&A – and happily agreed to by every professional golf tour – forbid the calling in from fans or outside sources of possible rules violations by players. One of the main reasons being not all players are being filmed all the time. Usually, it’s just the leaders.
Other tour players who may be inadvertently committing an infraction would not be penalized because the rules officials would not be able to watch them do so on a “rebroadcast.”
There is no doubt the PGA Tour rules officials were rightfully adhering to the “letter of the law” in penalizing Smith., some are now naturally wondering if – especially given the fact that Smith could become the No. 1 player in the world as well as the FedEx Cup champ – it might have been better for all concerned if they worked within the “Spirit of the law” and not penalized Smith, who finished in a 13th-place tie, well after the round was over.
Perception is often everything and professional golf will be much better when they can leave all this nonsense behind and grow a game loved by millions the world over.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the book: “The 56 – Liberty Lessons from those who risked all to sign The Declaration of Independence.”