Golf Guru

September 19, 2007

Q: My golf club is in an uproar over this hypothetical situation: Tiger Woods hits his drive in the rough. The gallery gathers around his ball. A spectator suffers a heart attack, swoons and falls directly on top of Tiger's ball. What happens?

Bruce Sullivan / Las Vegas

A: You guys have too much time on your hands. Why not turn your brilliant, creative minds to finding Bigfoot, or a cure for cancer, or the whereabouts of David Duval's golf swing? In the meantime, the answer is that the human body is a loose impediment, provided it is dead (if the man is groaning or asking for his mother, he is an outside agency). Tiger doesn't have to remove the guy--remember when spectators carried away a giant boulder that had the temerity to be in Tiger's way at the 1999 Phoenix Open? If Tiger does lift the corpse, and the ball moves, it's a one-stroke penalty; the ball must be replaced (Rules 23-1 and 18-2a). But if the ball moves because the body is jostled by paramedics, clergymen or sobbing relatives, it is replaced without penalty. One would hope, however, that the splendid Rule 1-4 would be invoked instead: In any situation not covered by the rules, it says, decisions should be made "in accordance with equity." A man has died. Dead bodies, just like live ones, deserve to be treated equitably.

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