By Bob Carney
Golf World Reader Ron Lowry of Marietta, GA, who wrote to us after the Webb Simpson penalty at the Zurich Classic in May, is once again irate, this time over the penalty to Carl Pettersson at the PGA. Pettersson was penalized two strokes for moving a leaf on his backswing during a shot from a hazard on the first hole of the final round. Are you kidding, asks Lowry:
This follows a previous email I sent last year. This time, the victim of the overly-officious USGA was Carl Pettersson. Already there has been tremendous public outcry about the patently ridiculous penalty in question.
The USGA has demonstrated time and again that is not a good steward of golf and needs to be replaced. The USGA dropped the ball on equipment years ago, letting hot, low-spinning balls, oversize titanium drivers and cavity-back irons destroy the necessity for shotmaking. I have played this great game for over 50 years. When I started the Rules of Golf were in a pamphlet about 15 pages in length. Now the Rules are in a book 201 pages in length--and even that's not enough. Now there is also a 2-volume bound treatise called "Rules Decisions."
The effect is that nobody plays by the USGA Rules, not even the PGA professionals because nobody understands them. The Rules are too complicated and there are too many of them. Also, the Rules are subject to multiple interpretations and the decision often comes down to who is doing the deciding. Remind me, why exactly did Dustin Johnson get penalized 2 strokes and miss out on the playoff at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits? Grounding his club in a bunker (that was really a waste area) you say? Well, every "bunker" at the Ocean Course was declared a waste area and even those that were obviously really "bunkers" were treated as such allowing players to take sand with practice swings and ground their clubs. So much for the Rules.
How much longer will the public stand for this? The game of golf is becoming a joke because of the USGA. Simplify the Rules USGA or get out of the way and let some other organization take over regulating golf!!!
There's steam coming off those keys, Mr. Lowry. And we know you are not alone in feeling that way. However, it's worth considering the USGA's point of view on this--or the PGA Tour's in this case, given that the Tour and the PGA of America accept those rules. Frank Hannigan, former USGA Executive Director, made a pretty strong case for the seeming unreasonableness of some rules
a while back in Golf Digest.
It also strikes me that golf is not alone in this. A rarely-called ruling helped the U.S. women's soccer team defeat Canada at the Olympics, and that ruling brought the same reaction from Canadian fans as yours to the Pettersson ruling.
That said, I think your sentiment on simplifying the rules is shared by enough golfers and heard often enough by the powers that be, that change will come. Stay tuned.