Trial by TV…right or wrong?

Kapalua, Hawaii Tournament of Champions. A very interesting situation occurred at this event as a guy called Dave Andrews was watching the tournament on tv at home. Dave and his friends watched Camilo Villegas flick away some loose grass as his ball rolled down a slope at the 15th hole. Dave and friends thought that Villegas had broken a rule by moving some of the grass. No rule book to hand but a little Googling finds Rule 23-1 on the USGA website that quotes ‘When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.’ Very clear really, if you know about it. So feeling compelled to do something Dave went on Twitter sending tweets about what he seen to both the PGA Tour and the Golf Channel and the message eventually got through. By this time Villegas had completed his round and signed his card. The result of all this was that Villegas was disqualified for having signed for an incorrect score. This is a fascinating use of new technology but should Villegas have been disqualified? The fact that the golf autorities have taken this action is interesting especially when you consider the player had finished his round and no official, nor the tv channel which showed a replay of it had noticed the rule infringment? In football there is almost a ground swell of opinion that tv technology needs to be brought in because the game is now too quick for the referee and his linesmen. There are lots of examples but the great injustice was probably when Ireland lost to Thierry Henrys double hand ball pass to himself to score the winner in the world cup qualifiers. There must have been about 500million people across Europe who saw this clear breaking of the rules but the one important person, the referee, missed it. As we know the Irish were robbed by this apparent blind spot. Had everyone gone onto twitter maybe the outcome could have been different. A key difference in these two cases is that in football, any corrective action has to be taken in the ‘live game’ for it to apply (forgetting video panels for tackles etc) but in golf the correction has been applied retrospectively. Is that fair on the player? Surely the officials are there to observe and monitor the game as ‘it is being played’ and catch these infringements of the rules. If they don’t and an eagle eyed tv viewer catches them and reports it, should this information be used after the event?

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