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Post Column: Fan call-ins are unfair to high-profile golfers

About a week and a half ago, on April 14, one of professional golf’s biggest tournaments of the season came to a close. The 2013 Masters Golf Tournament was held at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. History was made with Adam Scott winning over Angel Cabrera in an intense playoff to decide who would win the coveted green jacket. Scott became the first Australian competitor to win the Masters.

Despite Scott making history and etching his name into the golf record books, his monumental accomplishments weren’t even the headline of the tournament. The top story of the tournament focused on none other than Tiger Woods, arguably the most popular name in golf.

Woods found his way into the tournament spotlight on Saturday, day three of the tournament. On hole 15, a notoriously challenging par 5, Woods’ third shot hit the flag and bounced the other way, landing in the water. As a result, Tiger took a drop. A fan later called in to report that Tiger had made an illegal drop. The committee reviewed the tape and ruled that no infraction was committed. That decision held strong until Tiger admitted to making an illegal drop saying, “I looked over the drop area, it wasn’t very good. It was a tough shot; I went two yards further back and tried to hit my shot another two yards off of what I felt like I hit it.”

It was after this admission that the rules committee further evaluated the situation and eventually issued Woods a two-stroke penalty.

I will admit, I am not a huge Tiger Woods fan myself, but my problem with this situation lies not in the fact that Woods may or may not have cheated with his drop, or even that he elected not to disqualify himself; a decision for which Woods was later criticized. My only problem with the situation is that professional golf allows fans the ability to call in potential infractions. Professional golf is the only sport that currently allows it.

Fan call-ins allow for fans, who most likely have a particular bias, the ability to change the outcome of golf matches. I personally think that is just wrong.

Fellow golf pro Bubba Watson voiced his discontent with fan call-ins in a USA Today article saying, “Nobody calls in during a basketball game or a football game. ... They’re definitely not calling balls and strikes during a baseball game. “Maybe it’s because our sport is so slow, they have time to call in.” Bubba later commented, “A high-profile player has the camera on him all the time. Like me today, there were no cameras on me today. Everybody could care less what I was doing. They were worried about what Tiger was doing.”

Bubba brings up an excellent point. Not only is fan call-in a bad idea because it can allow a fan with bias or a grudge the chance to alter the outcome, but also because allowing fans to call in infractions puts high-profile golfers such as Woods at a disadvantage because they are being watched on TV by all the viewers at home. Less profiled golfers who aren’t covered on TV don’t have to worry about a fan calling in infractions, because a fan cannot call in an infraction if they don’t see it. Fans at home can only call in infractions against those golfers they see on TV.

A potential solution is to just eliminate the fans’ ability to call in completely. By doing that, everyone is on a fair playing field and it takes away the fans’ ability to change the outcome of a match or a tournament. In no other professional sport would this kind of rule be tolerated. It’s about time that it is no longer tolerated in golf either.

Christopher Miller is a freshman studying broadcast journalism and sport management and a columnist for The Post. What do you think about fan call-ins? Email Christopher at cm001111@ohiou.edu

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