The Loop

Tim Finchem says most golf fans "don't really want to know" about player discipline. Do you agree?

March 10, 2015

In a compelling column in the New York Times on Tuesday, writer Karen Crouse used Dustin Johnson's win in the WGC-Cadillac Championship to lament the PGA Tour's secretive dealings with player discipline.  #iframe://|||

Johnson, as you may recall, only returned from a six month leave of absence earlier this winter, and it still remains unclear whether his hiatus was self-imposed or mandated by the tour. A report from last summer said Johnson was suspended for failing a drug test, which the tour ended up disputing. As Crouse notes, the absence of a clear answer means Johnson is likely to be trailed by the question even as the focus could be returning to his impressive play. But when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the media on Sunday, he said the appetite for such information from golf fans is limited.

"I've said this many times," he said. "We don't think the fans really want to know about most of the stuff we would be talking about. We don't think there's a large volume of it, and we don't think much of it is very serious."

The same thinking would apply to whether Rory McIlroy will be disciplined for hurling his 3-iron into the water at Doral on Friday. Was that "conducting unbecoming a professional" and grounds for a fine from the tour? Was McIlroy called into the principal's office as a result? We'll never know from the tour, because as Finchem says, you don't care.

Maybe you don't, which is why we put the question to you.   <a href="">As a golf fan, are you interested in whether a player is disciplined by the PGA Tour?</a>

It's worth noting that golf's stance on not disclosing disciplinary action is unique from other sports. The National Hockey League, for instance, makes a point of publicizing fines and suspensions -- in part because of fan interest, but also as a deterrent for future behavior.

"It's undeniable that fans want to know -- particularly about the on-ice infractions. But that's only a fraction of the motivation," said John Dellapina, the NHL's vice president of communications. "The thrust is to change behavior. The idea is to have a predictable and transparent discipline system that makes clear to players what is unacceptable, why and what the consequences are in the hope that they won't do the same bad stuff over and over."

Granted, sports like hockey and football face a different challenge than golf because of concerns over player safety. In other words, part of the reason you publicize your suspension of a player who cracked his stick over another player's head is to prevent other players from doing the same thing.

But the same principles apply if you want to prevent a golfer from failing a drug test or throwing a club on national television. If there's not only a clear precedent of the punishment but also the public stigma that goes with it, aren't you more inclined to steer clear of trouble?