One of my favorite events in all of sports is The Open Championship, also known in the US as the British Open. And this year the R&A board (Royal & Ancient is the name under which the championship is managed) is hosting the tournament at St. Andrews, Scotland on the Old Course, the home of golf some 600 years ago.
The reason I enjoy this event the most in sport is because the players have to abide by the honor system and a lengthy set of rules that evolved over the centuries, mostly the past century. There aren’t many sports where you have to call a penalty on yourself when you make a mistake. If you don’t, the ultimate penalty may be assessed, resulting in your disqualification from the tournament. Done. Out. Pack your bags.
With all the television cameras and crews, plus hundreds of spectators watching a player’s every move it is much more difficult to get by with a mistake in golf than it is in any other sport. The fact that they call themselves out, which happens fairly often, is incredible. Even failing to sign your scorecard at the end of a round is reason to be disqualified, but you have to own up to it.
Today, during the second round of play on a windy course that should not have seen action until the winds died down, Paul Lawrie, a former Champion Golfer of the Year, as the winner is known, was on the green and his ball that was at rest started moving due to the wind. Before he could mark the ball it rolled about 6 feet, making what was an 18 inch putt more like 5.5 feet. He was looking for a ruling from the official, but could do nothing but wait until the ball stopped and then mark it quickly. While this isn’t a penalty on the player costing a stroke, it’s a rule that Lawrie must abide by, making his putt more difficult. Like a gentleman, Lawrie took the bad news in stride and marked his ball. There is no instant replay in golf to change or check ball placement. There is no officiating crew in New York watching each match deciding what stands and doesn’t. If a player has an extra club in his bag, as happened to Ian Woosnam a couple of years ago, he has to disclose that to officials, thereby disqualifying himself from the event. While he was angry about it, Woosnam knew the rule and told the officials. Outstanding sportsmanship.
Golf is a gentleman’s game, and sometimes that is lost on local golf courses as etiquette seems to erode in public. It’s an old game, but has withstood the test of time and competition and deserves respect from it’s players. I love the game, and hope that I can live up to the rules like the pros do if I ever find myself in that type of situation.
What is your favorite sporting event? What do you love about it?