If you are one of the trillion golf fans on the planet and any nearby universe that has tapped into any of the sports news feeds, you are probably pretty nauseated from the continuous coverage of the Tiger Woods Show at this year’s Masters. If you are the person under the only rock left to hide under that would keep you from hearing about what took place yesterday at the worlds most prestigious golf tournament here is the bottomline of what happened.
Tiger Woods, the recently re-crowned World’s Number One Golfer (and cash cow for nearly the entire golf industry), got caught by a TV viewing fan breaking one of the basic rules in the game of golf. He afterwards admitted his intensions in a recorded interview that reenforced he knowingly broke the rule. The infraction was serious enough to call for The Master’s Tournament Committee Chairman to call for a disqualification, but instead..gasp…they slapped Tiger’s wrist with a 2 stroke penalty which for the greatest golfer in the world is erased in two holes.
Yes there just a few details on the drama this created I left out, but since you are probably one of the millions who have seen the ten thousandth rerun of the interviews the Golf Channel has had with anyone they could stick a camera in front of, you probably already know the entire story.
So why am I rehashing this?
And the question I have is..would anyone be talking about this if there had not been a number of High Definition TV Cameras on Tiger? I’ll answer that for you..NO!
Rule 33-7/4.5 is in the Rules of Golf which gives the Tournament Committee discretion on “waiving, modifying, or imposing” the penalty of disqualification. This rule is referred to as the ‘HD Rule’ that was implemented to allow golf’s governing bodies to assess penalties after the round due to high-definition television review of a rules violation from a TV viewer.
So, there now there is a rule for the game of golf that allows the tournament committee to review, after a player has completed his round of golf, an infraction that was caught on a High Definition camera. This has to be the most controversial rule ever added to the Rules of Golf. The major issue of this rule is the term High Definition Camera which at the time of this definition only the TV cameras coving the event were HD. Obviously, this was to keep people sending in a cellphone camera photo in to report a violation. But I digress.
Fairness of the Rule
The point to be made here is not all players are on the HD TV Cameras for every single shot they make. The ONLY way to make this rule fair for all participants in the golf tournament is for every player in the field to have a HD Camera on them for every shoot they make. Will this ever happen? It could and may happen for the interest of growing the game of golf, but more probably..NOT!
Who Are the TV Events Benefiting?
So, the people of greatest risk of being called down for a rules violation will be the top players or the players who are currently in the lead of the tournament. Now, the line of question then becomes..
- Are the televised professional golf tournaments produced for the avid golfer or for the sponsor’s consumers?
- Does coverage of just the leaders of a golf tournament promote the game of golf or appease the sponsors of the professional golf event?
It is clear Golf needs help with it’s image in order to draw more people to playing the game or sport. Television plays a huge part in helping promote the virtues of golf to those who currently do not play Golf. It is a FACT producing a high quality Televised event cost tons of money and in order for that high quality of production to take place there has to be reassurance that someone is going to pay those costs. So logically, the TV productions effort to secure sponsors to underwrite those costs makes sense.
However, from that point the balance on who is paying what changes to meeting the sponsors needs to get a return on their investments. Here, nothing has changed for hundreds of years. The sponsors of the TV coverage of a professional golf event expect this return of investment to come from marketing their products to the millions of TV viewers. The more people who watch the program the more the Sponsors are charged by the TV production company. This means the sponsors need more people to buy their product to pay for their investment.
Unfortunately, if something happens during the professional golf event that results in the viewers changing the channel the less likely the TV production company is going to make the money from the sponsor they need to pay for the cost of production. This then makes it less likely the sponsors are going to be happy with the fewer sells they perceive they will make from a less number of viewers.
Where the Change is Needed
In this case, where there was a decision looming on whether to disqualify the sponsors’ main draw of viewers from the worlds most watched golf tournament or NOT, the decision obviously was to go for the money..not the integrity of Golf.
This same thought process obviously went into the thinking for allowing golf “fans” to report violations of rules they see on TV. The TV producers and sponsors surely saw where not allowing viewers’ observations to be heard would result in even more potential consumers to turn the channel away from seeing what the sponsors are marketing.
Right Thing to Do
The question now is..What is the right thing to do?
If the PGA and USGA were really serious on growing the game of golf they would not let the TV coverage be a factor in who wins or loses a golf tournament. In this situation for The Masters a simple solution of having an experienced tested USGA Rules official inside the ropes for each pairing of players would void the need for the HD TV rule. This would put the enforcement of the rules of golf squarely upon the players of the game as it was intended to be. The dispute portion of any ruling would then fall squarely on the ‘walking official’ shoulder which, like in the other professional games, is the absolute ruling.
Time for Golf to Get Real
As far as how TV and their sponsors effect the game by who they choose to cover on TV?? Well, I see this being what viewers should be calling in to report they want out of their TV coverage instead of a rules infraction. The more people who say they are going to NOT watch a golf event unless they show more of the other players of the event the quicker the TV producers will understand that they need to invest in placing Camera on every hole to cover every player. This would allow the directors of the TV coverage, sitting in the trailer in the parking lot, a broader selection of players to the viewers to cover and would stop them from having the Sponsors screaming in their headsets to show more of their cash cows. This is the right thing for the TV production companies to do and now that I am in the Video production business I KNOW how simple it can be done.
Let’s hope the TV networks realize the opportunity to capture their precious viewers by investing in today’s technology which would allow a viewer to watch the player they want to watch..or not. I see this as the future of TV coverage of golf. Providing more selective viewing would satisfy the interest of golfers and non-golfers a like. They would be able to select, from using their remote control, what golfer or golfers they want to see win or lose the golf tournament.
Professional Golf needs to evolve and mature. It has to stop thinking the next generation is stupid. Golf has to understand to get the next generation of golfers and businesses to support their events they have to stop making Golf look like a NASCAR event.
Making the Rules of Golf simple to understand and keep the pressure of playing by the rules self imposed by those who play Golf is where the governing body of golf needs to focus and not on how many sponsor dollars a rule will generate or run off. The HD TV rule, or interpretation of the Rule 33.7, needs to be be clearly written as does the entire Rules of Golf.
There are a number of solutions to offer to help golf grow, but supporting cheating so more people will watch the game is not one of them.
Let me know how I can help.