June 25, 2007

All the rage

Now that the USGA says golfers can be tossed for throwing a tantrum, we rewrite history.

There is hardly any group in sports that's more fun these days than those madcap comedians at the U.S. Golf Association. What they've done lately while our backs were turned was amend a rule to say that competitors may now be disqualified from tournaments for breaches of etiquette.

In other words, don't dig that pitching wedge too deeply into the turf in a fit of anger, or an oversensitive agronomist in an armband will quickly escort you to the big yellow taxi waiting outside.

The mind races with thoughts of how this rule could have changed the results of some of our majors.

JONES DENIED SLAM

ARDMORE, Pa., Sept. 27, 1930 — Owing to the memory of a rules-conscious fan, Bobby Jones' fantastic Grand Slam was erased today only hours after he completed it by defeating Eugene Homans in the final of the U.S. Amateur at the Merion Cricket Club.

Earlier this year Jones captured the U.S. and British Opens and the British Amateur, but those titles were taken from him along with the U.S. Amateur because of a breach of etiquette that occurred nine years ago.

In a long-distance telephone call from a golf fan in Scotland, the USGA learned of Jones' inappropriate behavior in his first appearance at St. Andrews in the British Open of 1921. The rules-conscious fan told of seeing the young Jones hit a ball into Hill Bunker at the 11th, fail to extricate it after several vicious swings, then storm off the course in a fury, catch a train to Glasgow and board a freighter back to his home in America.

Huntington T. Findlay Phillips, the USGA rules official who made the decision at Merion, said, "Under Breach of Etiquette, Retro Anger, Rule 2c-4p, we had no choice in the matter."

A disappointed Bobby Jones said later, "Like Jack Nicklaus, who hasn't been born yet, the USGA plays a game with which I am not familiar."

HOGAN'S HARD LUCK

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland, July 10, 1953 — It would have been hailed as a Triple Crown for Ben Hogan, but after winning the British Open today, his third major of the year, Hogan received the news that his victory in the U.S. Open at Oakmont back on June 14 was being taken away by the USGA because of an obscure rule.

A rules-conscious fan who had attended the National Open at Oakmont pointed out to the USGA that Hogan's constant cigarette smoke had been detrimental to his health. Surely, the fan said, forcing someone to breathe second-hand smoke is a breach of etiquette under the rules.

Benson Bronson Bracey-Cox, the current USGA president, said, "The fan may well have coined a phrase when he referred to 'second-hand smoke,' but putting that aside, we are forced to agree with him that endangering someone's health is, in fact, covered under Breach of Etiquette, Bad Breath, Rule 7g-3b. While everyone we know enjoys cigarette smoking today, we have a rather strong suspicion that it will be frowned upon 40 years from now, so I say we must stay ahead of the curve, n'est-ce pas?"

BOLT THUNDERS

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., June 16, 1960 — Tommy Bolt got rid of a golf club that had been betraying him today, but he lost a U.S. Open in the process.

When Bolt angrily tossed his driver into the lake at Cherry Hills, the USGA had no recourse but to nullify his victory of two years ago in the 1958 National Open at Southern Hills.

USGA President Stanley Morgan Chase said, "It is unfortunate but quite clear that under Breach of Etiquette, Club Drowning, Rule 1c-1b, a player may not hold a U.S. Open title, past or present."

Gary Player, the runner-up in '58, was awarded that championship, and said, "I am very pleased to accept. This one is going to count just as much as the Nigerian Senior Four-Balls and all of the other majors I intend to win before my career is over."

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