Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Old 97's

My partner Alan is quite an accomplished golfer. Do not feel compelled to take my word for it. Ask him. He will tell you the same thing. (Just kidding. Well, kind of, sort of.) I do not golf (or play golf or whatever the proper turn of phrase is). It is not a sport that I watch often on TV.

I do pay enough attention to it that I know that this past weekend was one of this season's Major Championships - the PGA. Sunday evening as we were sitting down to dinner, Uncle Mike and Joe were watching coverage of the final round. Candidly, as a viewer whose knowledge of the guys who play the game drops off dramatically once we have completed an exhaustive discussion of all players named "Tiger", I had no idea who the hell any of the golfers were who they were watching. And, refusing to give in to the temptation to Google the information, I have no idea who won the tournament.

I understand that on the 72nd hole, which for you non-duffers out there is the final hole of regulation, one of the guys who was battling for the win was Dustin Johnson. He went to the 18th tee with a chance to win the tournament. However when the 3-hole playoff started about thirty minutes later, only two players participated in it and neither of them was Johnson.

While hitting a shot on the 18th hole from a bunker (think big sandbox sans toys and cat dookie), Johnson "grounded" his club. According to my partner Alan that means he did what it sounds like he did - he allowed his club to make contact with the bunker prior to hitting the ball. While he did not do so for any apparent reason such as trying to better his lie in the bunker, the mere act of doing so violated a rule. And apparently - silly pants notwithstanding - those golf fellows take their rules and the violations thereof very seriously. Johnson's violation cost him two shots, a chance to (at least) participate in the playoff in a Major and a couple of hundred G's.

Golf apparently is a sport that has a lot of rules. Alan attempted to give me a primer on some of them yesterday morning but after a few minutes my head started to hurt. I felt better knowing that Alan - the resident expert - had the same take on what had happened on Sunday in Wisconsin as I did. I was more than a bit at a loss as to why the majority of pieces I read on what occurred blamed the course and excused the athlete. Posted in the locker room for all of of the players to read from before the first day of the tournament was a sign telling the golfers - and reminding them on a daily basis - that all of the bunkers on the course were hazards and that grounding a club - as Johnson did - would result in a two-shot penalty. Neither Johnson nor his caddy apparently bothered to read the posting.

The posting in question was ninety-seven words. Ninety-seven words that he could not be bothered to read. It has been written countless times that a picture is worth 1000 words. Late on Sunday afternoon, the picture of Dustin Johnson grounding his club proved to be worth far fewer words than that. And yet cost him so much more.


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