Camilo Villegas was disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii on January 7 following a rules violation during his opening round on the previous day.
He was chipping up slope toward the green at the par-5 15th hole when the ball twice rolled back down. The second time, he flicked away some loose pieces of grass by the divot as the ball was still moving down the slope. To view a video of the infraction, click here.
That was a violation of USGA Rule 23-1, which states that, “When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.”
Villegas should have taken a two-stroke penalty in addition to the double bogey 7 that he recorded. After finishing his round, he signed for an opening 72, which meant he was actually disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
David Andrews of Daytona Beach, Florida took note of the possible violation and sent tweets about what he saw to the PGA Tour and The Golf Channel. Villegas was subsequently disqualified.
Bruce Dowbiggin of The Globe and Mail insightfully questions the sacrosanctity of such a rule if not observed by accompanying Rules Officials. The rules are promulgated by the R&A in St. Andrews, Scotland (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) whose mandate is to ‘guard the tradition and integrity of the game.’
Under the circumstances, tournament officials must have believed that the heart and soul of the game was under siege.
This raises some interesting issues.
It is striking to note the extent to which the PGA embraces technology (instant replay and Twitter in this instance) in overruling an on field official for a missed call.
This is in stark contrast to football where FIFA’s anachronistic approach to technology enabled Diego Maradona’s 1986 ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, France striker Thierry Henry’s intentional handball which set up William Gallas’s decisive goal against the Republic of Ireland in a World Cup play-off in 2009, a missed goal in England’s 4-1 defeat to Germany and an allowed offside goal in Argentina’s 3-1 win over Mexico in the second round at the 2010 World Cup. For more, see a previous Canary post here.
In light of the controversy in South Africa, FIFA is making the right noises about change but don’t hold your breath.
Villegas’ disqualification on the grounds of an infraction observed by a television viewer and sent via passenger pigeon – tweet actually – and executed the day after the rule violation is as objectionable as FIFA’s phobic neurosis to technology.
There must be a middle ground somewhere that reasonably accommodates both technology and human frailties so that we do not need to continue to witness such travesties in sport.