Don’t turn back clock with multiple sets of rules
Recently, there has been criticism from PGA Tour players Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka about the revised Rules of Golf promulgated by the USGA and the R&A. Koepka, the two-time defending U.S. Open champion, has gone so far as to suggest that the PGA Tour should have its own set of rules for the game’s most elite players, and some other Tour players apparently agree. After all, Koepka notes, other professional sports have their own rules, which differ among leagues and are different from those followed by amateurs.
Thankfully, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has stepped forward in favor of a single set of rules for golf, noting that the new rules were drafted with input from the Tour and other bodies (“Monahan vows to mend golf’s fences,” March 14).
But let’s think about where separate PGA Tour rules would lead us. What about the major championships, the top events on the golf calendar? This is Players week, which isn’t actually a major. Under the “Koepka rule,” PGA Tour rules would apply. The first major tournament will be the Masters next month. Clearly, Augusta National Golf Club, led by chairman Fred Ridley, a former USGA president, wouldn’t go along with the Koepka rule. Would the PGA Championship, run by the PGA of America, opt for the Koepka rule? Perhaps.
What of the U.S. Open, at which Koepka will seek to defend his past two Open titles? That question answers itself, as does the British Open, which is run by the R&A.
Let’s ruminate a bit more on this. The Ryder Cup? That belongs to the PGA of America, not the Tour – up in the air. The Presidents Cup? Now there’s a Tour property, so it would fall under the Koepka rule. The Solheim Cup? Hmm … that belongs to the LPGA.
What about the European Tour? And events in Thailand or Japan? These groups all fall under the R&A jurisdiction.
I can only imagine the professionals having to check each week on which set of rules would apply to the current tournament as they bounce back and forth between weekly events with different rules. Homebound TV viewers would have a field day calling in rules violations.
Golf has been through this scene before when the USGA, the R&A and the Western Golf Association had different rules on penalties, amateur status and equipment. It took until 1952 to get a uniform set of the Rules of Golf. Now is not the time to go backwards.
Golf is a global sport, and the rules of the game should be the same for all.
(Fischer, a retired attorney, is a golf historian who is a past president of the Golf Collectors Society and a longtime member of the USGA’s Museum and Library Committee.)
PGA Tour needs more spots for players, not fewer
John Hawkins makes a call for fewer players in PGA Tour fields in order to speed up play (“Tour should stop appeasing its lower tier,” March 12). He also claims the Tour is a star-driven enterprise and that "a lot of players [are] living off the fat of the land," and later basically calls them free-loaders.
Excuse me. There are maybe 200 players in the entire world with PGA Tour privileges in any given year. That's it. To deny some of them additional playing opportunities for these reasons is absurd. You have to be a great – and I mean great – player just to make the PGA Tour.
But if Hawkins wants to highlight the elite of the game, we already do that with the World Golf Championships and their relatively small fields; the Masters has fewer than 100 participants in most years, and you also have a number of limited-field invitational events, such as the RBC Heritage here in South Carolina.
On the contrary, there needs to be more opportunities somehow. Maybe the Tour can explore having more multi-course events such as the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. But reducing playing spots is certainly not the right way to go.
(Harman is the national course director for the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation.)
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