Re: “Calling a foul on unseen official” (John McGrath column, 8-18).
McGrath’s baseball writing is exemplary, but his take on the Rules of Golf is in la-la land.
When Dustin Johnson was called for grounding his club in a bunker at the PGA, the officials proceeded exactly as required. As an experienced rules official from the USGA level down to the local junior level, I will tell you that the cardinal rule in a stroke play competition is “protecting the field,” which means that no player will be given an advantage and that all rules infractions must be called. Can you imagine explaining to the rest of the field if Johnson’s violation had been deliberately overlooked?
McGrath’s suggestion of a “gotcha” mentality among rules officials is totally absurd. In fact, there is an unwritten code among rules officials that purges officials with a “gotcha” mentality. In fact, I will guarantee you that PGA Official Mark Wilson was agonizing over the prospect of having to penalize Johnson, especially given the situation.
The truth of the matter is that penalizing or disqualifying players is part of the “dirty work” we must do. If McGrath thinks we look forward to it or relish it, he’s completely off base.
Adherence to a tightly worded and consistent set of rules is the only way competitive golf can be fairly played among hundreds of competitors. There is no room for touchy-feely interpretations when a spectator such as McGrath sees it as appropriate.