Pro golfers under pressure to play by the rules

Tiger Woods

Credit: Getty Images

Tiger Woods checks the leaderboard during the final round of the 2013 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2013. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

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by JOE TRAHAN

Bio | Email | Follow: @joetrahan

WFAA

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 2:11 AM

IRVING — Rules. We all live by them. And on the PGA Tour, they've come into focus because of what's happened lately with the game's biggest name, Tiger Woods.

Slugger White is one of the most experienced rules officials on tour, with more than 30 years on the job.

"Tiger didn't get away with anything," said White of what happened to Woods at Augusta earlier this year. "He got penalized, and that was the bottom line."

The review that resulted in Tiger Woods being assessed a two-stroke penalty at the Masters started when a TV viewer reached out to tournament officials.

It's been happening for years. People call in to tournament offices with possible violations.

Some players, like 2012 HP Byron Nelson champion Jason Dufner, say it's not needed.

"I've been out here 11 years, and I don't think I've ever been in a situation where a player was trying to bend the rules, or trying to gain an advantage," he said.

"I don't think anybody here recently was trying to cheat," added 2007 HP Byron Nelson champion Scott Verplank. "They just made mistakes."

PGA Tour players as a group will earn upwards of $350 million this season. Despite all that money — and unlike any other pro sport — John Q. Public is invited to make a call.

"I don't ever see myself calling in and saying that Kobe traveled, or things like that," Tiger Woods said last week before winning the Players Championship.

Years ago, the PGA Tour tried to have its own official monitor TV feeds, but they deemed it a waste of time.

Adding to the players' case: In no other sport do pros call penalties on themselves.

Like a couple of years ago, when Brian Davis lost the The Heritage tournament in a playoff because he moved a twig in a hazard. And while no one else saw it, he did, and spoke up to White, who was the Tour official on the scene.

"I mean, how many pulling guards in football go up to the ref and say, 'Hey, I held that guy going around there,'" White said. "These guys call penalties on themselves all the time."

You'd think that might sway the Tour; not enough though, because your phone calls are still welcome.

"I don't know if you can balance that, to be quite honest," White told me. "Its just something... it's just part of our job. I think we just have to do what we have to do. It's our due diligence, and we have to go with it."

It's not just the call-ins, either. There's something else about the way the PGA Tour goes about its business that the players think might be outdated. And it has to do with how they finish their rounds.

Why do players have to sign their scorecards when they're done?

I can follow nearly every shot on my iPhone, computer, or TV, but they have to sign the card to make it official.

Ted Purdy. the 2005 HP Byron Nelson champ, once played a round with 17 pars and a birdie, then checked and signed his card.

But there was an issue.

"Paul Casey, who was keeping my card, had put the birdie on 11 instead of 12," Purdy explained. "Because I thought it was so easy to check, I didn't check it real hard."

Purdy went from top 10 to throwing his clubs in the trunk.

He was disqualified and lost big money on a low-tech miscue.

But again, the PGA Tour has a different take.

"Signing your scorecard means that 'This is what I made, and this is what I'm attesting to,'" White said. "So, I think its a vital part of the game. And I hope that it never changes. And it may very well one of these days, but I hope it doesn't."

"Golf doesn't want to come into the 21st century, except for the equipment," Verplank said. "The equipment's another century ahead, but the rules and some of the traditions are staying where they're at, and that's good."

Not all the guys out here are good with that, though. But they might as well embrace it, because we'll all be watching.

And some will be calling.

E-mail jtrahan@wfaa.com

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