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  • Alistair Tait

A Major Benefit Of Golf's Civil War


Wasn’t it great seeing all the top golfers teeing it up at The Masters? Not just the ones the PGA Tour thinks should be in action.


Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann and others back playing against Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and the like. Just as it should be, regardless of where you stand on the PGA Tour/LIV Golf debate.


Contrast the Masters field with that of the so-called “fifth major,” the Players Championship. The PGA Tour used to insinuate the Players was worthy of major status because it normally matched or even bettered (certainly in the case of the Masters), fields for the four bona fide marquee tournaments. No more. Last month’s Players was a shadow of its former self because of the PGA Tour’s decision to ban the so-called LIV rebels.


Yes, the PGA Tour can provide entertainment without LIV players: Chris Kirk’s head-to-head battle with Eric Cole in the Honda Classic was compelling viewing; ditto for Kurt Kitayama earning his maiden PGA Tour victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, nothing beats watching the best of the absolute best go up against each other as they did in the Masters, and will do in the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. The blue chip events already stood out, but they’ve been elevated because the powers that be of each event took the sensible decision not to follow the PGA Tour’s lead and ostracise Koepka and company.


Every cloud, silver lining and all that, but watching the next three majors is going to be more fun than in previous years. Call it a major benefit of golf’s civil war.


"Staggering"


Still baffled Brooks Koepka wasn’t handed a two-stroke penalty after his caddie Rickie Elliott blatantly breached Rule 10-2a? You’re not alone. Quite how the Masters Committee could look at the footage of Elliott clearly mouthing the word “five” to Gary Woodland’s caddie on the 15th hole and not conclude that advice on club selection was passed on is astounding.


That was Paul McGinley’s take. The former 2014 Ryder Cup captain said:

"It's very obvious… it's staggering that they've (Koepka and Elliott) denied it because the evidence is there. This is common practice on tour. Whether you like it or not, it happens in every professional tournament around the world. If the authorities want to stamp this out and really come down on this and make an example of it and obviously they haven't. They've chosen not to do that and it looked very clearly the evidence was against them.”

It’s not the first time the green jackets have ran roughshod over the rules. Tiger Woods should have been disqualified for signing for an incorrect score on the same hole during the 2013 Masters in contravention of then Rule 6-6D. There were no exemptions to that old rule, but the green jackets found one to keep him in the tournament, giving him a two-shot penalty instead.


Sad too that many on social media, including players and experienced caddies, defended Koepka and Elliott by citing the “common practice” line. People speed on our motorways every day, but it’s still against the law. Why have rules if they’re not going to be applied?


The Masters did golf a disservice by not enforcing a clear breach of Rule 10-2a.


What’s The Point Of Rule 5.6b?


As for not enforcing the rules, the green jackets did absolutely nothing about players impersonating snails. Actually, that’s an insult to snails: they move much quicker than the likes of Patrick Cantlay and Sam Bennett. Watching these two and a few others is no fun. Ask those who played with them at Augusta. Cantlay seems to treat every putt like he’s about to perform brain surgery, while I’m surprised some players didn’t give the amateur a rocket for how long it took him to hit shots.


I’ve argued for a shot clock in golf for years. This latest Masters only reinforces my view for officials to time players and penalise them for breaching the time limit. Rule 5.6b clearly states that:

“It is recommended that the player make a stroke in no more than 40 seconds after he or she is (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction.”

Forty seconds? Ha, ha, ha.


If I had my way I’d changed the wording to “Players MUST play in no more than 40 seconds…”


I’d also introduce a shot clock so the rule was enforced. Otherwise, this perennial problem that is killing the game is never going to go away.


#JustSaying: “The group in front of us (Cantlay and Viktor Hovland) was brutally slow. Jon went to the bathroom like seven times during the round, and we were still waiting.” Brooks Koepka

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