Golf getting far too personal

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

These days, a sportswriter needs a working knowledge, if not a degree, in business, economics and labour relations with all of the salary caps, arbitrations, strikes and lockouts compared to the days when games were enough on their own for fans.

Agents and bean counters are now major players, but in any sport that anybody pays serious attention to, that's a fact of life.

The same can now be said for the increasing requirement to report trash TV garbage directed at the high school mentalities of those who still etch their initials, along with their significant other's, and surround them with a heart on an oak tree in the park.

It may be the Tiger Woods scandal, or the desperation for titillating headlines in this age of instant information, but this nasty habit of exploring people's personal lives has oozed its way into golf with the rumoured fling between Dustin Johnson and Natalie Gulbis.

A potential relationship between a rising PGA Tour star and the glamour girl of the LPGA Tour was just too much for the media to pass on when Gulbis apparently told somebody they were dating, a relationship that Johnson has since denied.

The word was that Johnson withdrew from the Sony Open because he wanted to patch things up with a girlfriend who apparently hasn't been a girlfriend for a couple of months.

It seems that this hot little romance has been a publicity stunt that the media bought into in its zeal for such juicy tidbits. Can we leave this for the cheesy entertainment/ celebrity sniffers?

A common justification for the incessant coverage the Tiger scandal received last year was that he never should have gotten married if he wanted to chase skirts, but both Johnson and Gulbis are single people, so what's the big deal?

The media will play the public figure card as an answer, which gives them an easy out for going trash TV on this one. The evolution of the media, if you want to call it that, means three words apply to such relationships, either real or imagined.

Get used to it.

E-RULES OF THE GAME

If you started a hockey game at the beginning of this NHL season and stopped it every time a fan disagreed with a call, it would likely be only in the second period.

Of course, it's a ridiculous concept, but at least in hockey, a player would know immediately when he'd committed a rules violation, which is not the case in golf where fans become rules officials by phone or e-mail.

Padraig Harrington didn't find out that he had been disqualified until after signing his card following the first round of last week's Abu Dhabi Championship.

The situation was that Harrington unwittingly moved his ball slightly forward after removing his marker and it was reported by a viewer via e-mail. When the two-stroke penalty wasn't reflected on Harrington's scorecard, he was DQ-ed after signing it.

A couple of weeks ago in Hawaii, Camilo Villegas was also disqualified when a viewer blew the whistle on him for a rules infraction, which bring us to the first point. Like other sports, only official rules personnel and players should making such calls or questioning whether an infraction took place.

That way, the player in violation of the rules could be informed immediately and react by rectifying the situation or reflecting the penalty on his scorecard.

Certainly, a statute of limitations must apply so the player isn't nailed with a harsh DQ for something that was likely accidental or minor in nature after he signs his card after the round. In hockey or football, questionable calls are dealt with immediately on video replay, not after the game.

The rules are in place to keep honour in the game, but in most cases, it isn't the honour of the players that is in question. The game's credibility, on the other hand, does become questionable.


Videos

Photos