Like millions of other Americans, I was caught up in the Masters Golf Tournament, played every April in beautiful Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. I watched with great interest as 14 year-old Tianlang Guan of China became the youngest golfer to ever play at The Masters, and I was excited to see if Tiger Woods would be able to grab his 15th major golf victory. What I wasn’t expecting was controversy from both of these players.

First, Guan was given a one-stroke penalty for slow play on hole No. 17 during his second round. Yes, the penalty was warranted because he had already been warned about the 40-second clock (yes, basketball and football aren’t the only sports with play clocks). But this was the first slow play penalty assessed in a major since 2004, and you just feel sorry for the young man.

Incidentally, he made the cut and was crowned the low amateur at the end of the Masters telecast. And if you watched any of his interviews, he is a well spoken, polite young man who accepted the penalty with grace.

Then there is Tiger and his now legendary two-shot penalty. For those who missed it, on Friday he hit a great shot that hit the 15th pin and bounced back into the water hazard. Woods had three legal options, but he dropped his ball two yards behind the original shot – a fourth option that was illegal by golf rules. He didn’t catch the mistake and neither did rules officials. But an eagle eyed home viewer did – and this is where I have a problem.

1. How can a major sport allow viewers at home to call in and report an error by a participant? The PGA admits it listens to fans and takes phone calls. For one, this is not fair to the elite players because they get almost every shot broadcast on national television while other players do not.

Second, fans have no business officiating a professional sporting event. Can you imagine what would happen if Roger Goodell fielded phone calls during NFL games – and then acted upon them? It would be chaos and simply not fair to those playing the game.

2. How can a ruling be made and then reversed the next day based on a post-game interview by a participant? The PGA said they reviewed the drop by Woods and deemed it acceptable. So how in the world can they change their minds the next day? Apparently, they listened to Woods’ post-round interview and didn’t like what he said. They summoned him to the office the next morning and, after talking to him, assessed the penalty.

Can you imagine what would happen in baseball if, during the locker room interviews, someone said, “I was really safe, he missed the tag” and the commissioner of baseball reversed the call the next day? Or a player admitted missing first base on a game-winning double, something no one caught until the commissioner reviewed the tape and overturned the call? Again, chaos could ensue. And even worse, professional golfers may decide to stop talking to the media after a round of tournament golf in fear of saying something to incriminate themselves.

3. Is it time for the PGA to include referees to make judgment calls on the spot? I fully understand that golf is a gentlemen’s game and played with integrity. But have you looked at the Rules of Golf? It is almost impossible to know all of these rules, but professional golfers are expected to have the book memorized. Why not have officials walk with each pairing and make rules determinations on the spot?

Like almost any other sport, golf should adopt a rule that states once a player leaves the course and signs his scorecard, the score is official. There should never be a change to a score the next day. Baseball set precedent when it did not overturn the blown call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010. Commissioner Bud Selig could have easily reversed the call the next day, but he understood that mistakes are part of the game. The same should be said in golf.

And there should never, ever be a review of a play IN ANY SPORT based on a phone call from a fan sitting at home drinking a beer. C’mon golf world, you are better than that.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the owner/publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, sports editor of the Kokomo Herald and public address voice of IU Kokomo athletics. His column can be found each week on the last page of the Sports Journal. You can follow Hockney on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) to stay up-to-date on sports happenings in Howard County and around Indiana.

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  1. Golf’s a wonderful game, shame I don’t get as much free time to play as I used to. Still find loads of time to watch it though! – Elmo

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