There is no heckling in golf, of course. That wouldn’t be gentlemanly.
To be a tattletale, however, as demonstrated in the still-developing story of Tiger Woods and the incorrect Masters drop, is the height of nobility.
Nothing else could explain the actions of Champions Tour golfer David Eger, a rules expert who was identified this week by SI.com as the man who called in from his home near Jacksonville to tag Tiger for dropping a ball a few feet farther back from where it should have been dropped.
Such righteous intervention, as we are led to understand, proves how much you love the game. That’s because it preserves and protects the rules, which were pounded out on a thousand stone tablets many centuries ago and hauled down the mountain on an ox cart driven by an old grump in a kilt.
Baseball and football and basketball and hockey allow their officials to officiate, with instant replay as an occasional aid, and then the game ends and everybody goes home, with all in agreement that some horrible calls were made and some dastardly fouls went unpunished but that’s tough. That’s life.
Golf is different because it desperately wants to be different. Cheaters never win, that’s the philosophy, or at least they shouldn’t, and for that reason every man, woman and child in the world is deputized to spy on every swing and putt by the glow of their HD-TVs, just in case.
You will find all of this explained under Rule 211-3-f, which clearly states “Any person who witnesses a violation that would otherwise go unnoticed shall promptly stand at attention and shout “Gotcha,” at which time inhabitants of the village will gather for an immediate tar-and-feathering of the offending player.”
Hey, I said the rules were ancient. Modern updates have civilized us to the point where people who aren’t even at the golf course can impact the competition by calling in a “gotcha” from thousands of miles away. That way nobody has to actually get their hands dirty. They don’t even have to be identified unless they want to be. Eger, in this case, is giving details to the press nearly three weeks after the fact.
What’s particularly galling about the Tiger incident, which resulted in a two-stroke penalty assessed on the morning after the round was completed, is that Augusta National had an army of top-flight rules officials on site that day and none of them saw a problem.
Same goes for all the TV analysts, many of them former PGA Tour players, who watched as Tiger made his drop right. Not until Eger studied the situation from home, and after rewinding his DVR to find it, did the first question arise, and only because Eger had the cell phone number of a Masters rules committee member did the controversy take flight.
Ironic that spectators behind the ropes are trained to hush and be still. The rules of this game actually honor those who speak up and, in wacky instances like these, those who just can’t resist the opportunity to speak ill.