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Arcane, pretentious golf rules can be annoying ...

Oh, yippee, British golf pro Brian Davis gently nudged a reed in a hazard at last weekend’s PGA event and gallantly called a penalty on himself and forfeited a chance to win his first PGA tournament. I’m still all warm and fuzzy from this noblest of moments.


I read the Associated Press account of this peculiar anticlimax and the writer took three separate occasions to contrast the nobility of what Davis had done with the sleaze that a certain more famous golfer has subjected our beloved sport to over the last six months. I was a little unclear on how the two were related, but I guess I understand the irresistible impulse for writers to whack Tiger in the shins with a 3-Iron when the opportunity presents itself.

When he wasn’t resorting to that particular impertinence, the rest of the piece recounted what a grand lesson it was for youth that a sportsman was able to place the sanctity of the sport and its rules above the petty preoccupation of trying to achieve a goal he’s worked at for six years.

And that’s all fair enough. But nowhere in the article does anyone get quoted about what a shame it is that golf has so many rules – there are others – that penalize a participant so harshly for things that either shouldn’t amount to a hill of beans are aren’t even under the player’s control.

Me, I like common sense rules when I like rules at all. Golfers can be penalized if the wind blows their ball around on the green, silly stuff like that. So many of them (the rules) don’t bother to try to take into account the question of intentionality and whether our hypothetical golfer gained any genuine advantage from the incident. And to make matters worse, there are so damn many of them you’d have to be a monk to have read them all.

And just so I don’t get a bunch of e-mails accusing me of promoting anarchy, I am not minimizing the nobility of what Davis did, but merely suggesting that along with nominating him for the Legion of Merit, we ought to lament just a wee bit about a player losing a shot at something so important because of a dumb rule.

But as our mildly sanctimonious AP writers observed, “Golfers don’t cheat. Not on the course, at least.”

I feel so much better.