RENO, Nev. — PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would like to see more common sense used in enforcing penalties for rules infractions phoned in by alert fans watching on television but he said on Tuesday that halting their input completely is “not an option.”
“We like the fact that people call in. We like the fact people who watch the telecasts get excited about something they see,” Finchem said.
“We don’t want to turn those people off. We want to accept the information and deal with it. Cutting them off is not an option. It is just a question of how the rule is applied,” he said in an interview Tuesday during a stop at Montreux Golf & Country Club to promote the 13th Reno-Tahoe Open Aug. 4-7 on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.
Finchem said he discussed the controversial topic in a meeting with members of the USGA executive committee in Phoenix on Friday after television viewers called in violations by Camilo Villegas in Hawaii and Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi in recent weeks. Both initially were assessed two-shot penalties, but because officials were notified after the round, each was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
“They are taking a hard look at it,” Finchem said. “They understand our concerns. It is a complicated rule.”
The first question is whether it’s appropriate to disqualify a player for signing a scorecard “when you had no reason to know you were signing a bad card,” he said Tuesday.
Villegas reached over to tap down a divot as his ball was rolling back down a slope to that very spot. A TV viewer tried to reach tournament officials, but his e-mail didn’t make its way to Kapalua until after Villegas had signed for a 72.
Finchem also questioned whether a two-shot penalty is appropriate “when there is no way you reasonably could have known you made a penalty — even if you knew the rule, like in Harrington’s case.”
A TV viewer noticed that when replacing his ball on the green, the ball moved forward ever so slightly. Harrington later said he knew the ball nudged forward, but he felt it had rolled back to its original spot. He was disqualified the next day.
“In Harrington’s case, you could see the ball move a little bit in HD television. You couldn’t see it move in analog. And he didn’t know,” Finchem said. “So there needs to be fairness and common sense to the rule.”
Finchem said he wants the PGA to follow the USGA’s lead and he anticipates they will end up with “a few, little, small” changes to the rules.
“I am cautiously optimistic we’ll get to some modifications that will just create a better system.”