A two parter.
Not a BMW but….
The story for the week in golf had to be the 12 under par 59 by Jim Furyk at Conway Farms in the second round of the BMW Championship. After an opening round 72, Furyk rode a stretch of magnificent driving accuracy to become only the sixth man in history on the PGA Tour to break 60. (Annika Sorenstam matched that total on the LPGA Tour.)
Until he missed the fairway left on his final hole on Saturday, Furyk had hit 32 consecutive fairways enabling him to take a one-stroke lead over Steve Stricker into the final round.
Whenever Furyk grabs the spotlight on the PGA Tour I am reminded of his unique connection to the St. Louis golf community. In 1992 Furyk, after leading his team to the NCAA Championship, had just turned professional from his collegiate career at Arizona when he showed up in St. Louis looking for his first golf paycheck at the Lou Fusz St. Louis Open.
The event, staged for most of its run at Normandie Golf Club, attracted a representative field in part because, paired with the Bogey Hills Invitational, it gave aspiring Tour players back to back weeks in St. Louis.
In the second round, Furyk made a hole in one at the par 3 16th at Normandie. There was a promotion that awarded a new car to a player making a hole in one that week, and Furyk was excited about getting a paycheck ‘and’ a car in his professional debut.
Unfortunately for Furyk the promotion was for the first hole in one and there had been one recorded about an hour earlier and his reward was limited to saving two strokes to par.
Following his US Open win at Olympia Fields in 2003, also in Chicago, I asked Furyk about that memory in his winner’s press conference. “That money (for the car) was worth more than the first prize check,” he said. “I definitely wanted the cash. Someone asked me about that. I’ve made quite a few hole-in-ones, I never got a darned car for it. I’ve also been lucky, I haven’t had to buy too many beers, so I guess it all evens out in the end.”
Friday at BMW was also a moment to forget for Tiger Woods and was the latest installment in a year when Woods has been on the wrong side of the rules.
On his opening hole, Woods flew the first green landing in a lightly wooded area with the ball lying among twigs and other natural debris. Woods began removing some material (loose impediments in golf’s rules) and eventually chipped out going on to double bogey the hole.
At the end of the round he was stopped from signing his card and asked to review footage of him moving the debris. A video camera gave a precise image of Tiger picking around the ball and the ball moving as a result. The penalty for that movement is one stroke and because he didn’t replace the ball in its original position an additional stroke was added, making his score on the hole a quadruple bogey eight.
Woods disputed the penalty, claiming the ball only oscillated and never moved and insisted no penalty should be incurred. The two strokes remained, and an irate Woods signed his card and abruptly left the course without speaking to anyone.
On Saturday after a rebound 66 Woods did stop to visit with the media and was questioned about the problem on Friday. He continued to argue against a video that couldn’t be more clear and eventually shifted the conversation back to his third round play.
Without that coincidental footage, Tiger would have gotten away with no penalty strokes and been given an unfair edge over the field by not self-reporting the rules violation.
This is the fourth time Woods has been in a rules controversy this year, and the pattern is a little disturbing.
In Abu Dhabi, he took an improper drop in his second round and would have gone unpunished if a writer travelling the golf course with him hadn’t questioned an official. The two-stroke penalty was applied and Woods missed the cut for the week.
At Augusta, it was again a round two rules controversy involving a drop after hitting the flagstick with his approach at the par five 15th. As with Abu Dhabi, Woods would have avoided the penalty for misapplying the rules had it not been for a viewer calling a rules official at the Masters. In this case the penalties were added ‘after’ he signed his card with no disqualification.
On Sunday in the final round of the Players Championship, Woods was cruising with a two-stroke lead when he put his tee shot in the water at the par 4 fourteenth at the TPC at Sawgrass. He took his drop, with the consent of rules officials and his fellow competitor, near the point the ball splashed into the water.
Aerial footage of the shot from the blimp suggested that his tee shot had never crossed land and that the drop should have been considerably back from where he played. Johnny Miller seeing the replay strongly suggested that Woods should not have been given the friendly drop and his score on the hole and eventual win in the event were questionable.
There are many things you can do in the game of golf and never really be sullied in reputation. Rules violations (cheating) are not one of them. In Abu Dhabi, at Augusta and again in Chicago Woods presented himself as the innocent victim of a mistake in judgment or knowledge of the rules. I hope he is correct. But I am troubled that a man with 14 major wins, 79 tournament wins, one of the winningest players in the history of the USGA as an amateur is so clueless of the rules. Fool us once, but four times?