Cheating in golf is not often discussed due to the self-policing nature of the sport and the integrity of the players.  Golf is a game of tradition, playing the ball as it lies and invoking penalties on oneself when no one is watching.  The problem is nowadays everyone is watching.  With events being covered from start to finish virtually all of the action is captured through the lens.  I’m sure the players don’t like having their every move scrutinized in high definition.  The fact is if people think there is no cheating in golf, they are uninformed.  It has taken place on all levels.

There have been the incidents involving players who unknowingly violated the rules.  Craig Stadler kneeling on a towel at Torrey Pines comes to mind. Paul Azinger kicking a rock out of his way as he took his stance while playing a ball from a Doral water hazard is also memorable.  These incidents were unintentional.  Yet the rules were applied and both players were penalized.  

Fans see more of these violations now due to increased camera time.  It doesn’t need to be this way.  Players are in charge of knowing the rules.  If they are unsure about a procedure, there are rules officials available to consult.  Realistically there isn’t any reason for a violation if these two considerations are followed.   

Perhaps the most publicized cheating events involved Bob Toski and Jane Blalock. Toski, a noted teacher, even admitted he cheated in a Senior Tour event.  On the LPGA Tour Blalock was suspended for an alleged incident involving the marking of her golf ball on the greens.  She filed suit against the LPGA and regained her playing privileges but the label had been affixed. Ironically Toski mentored Blalock as she worked to establish herself on the LPGA Tour.  

Last season the most notable rules infraction occurred during the second round of the Masters. Tiger Woods took an illegal drop and compounded that by playing his next shot from a wrong place.  Rather than disqualification, Mr. Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty and allowed to remain as a participant on the weekend  — a weekend when everyone watches the Masters.  

Did Tiger intentionally break the rule?  I don’t think there was intention but he did make a mess of the process.  What amazes me is officials with the group did not step in to advise Tiger.  Were they intimidated?  Aren’t they supposed to advise players if they see something askew?  I’ve never known the green coats to be shy. The rules committee bent over backwards to keep Mr. Woods around for the weekend.  Ultimately they were the one’s who cheated.  Their actions signaled to all players that it’s OK to amend the rules when it comes to “special circumstances”.   They insulted everyone who plays the game.      

Golf can monitor and control players.  However when rules committees at events, especially major championships choose to interpret rules situations for their gain, it opens a whole new issue.  Who do they report to?  Who oversees their actions?  In this case no one.  The Masters is its own entity.

Last year’s Friday debacle with Mr. Woods pasted a black eye on the game from a club that is supposed to uphold its high standards. Their decision compromised its integrity.  It was a selfish act.  If you ask to identify the ultimate cheater in professional golf the past few years, it isn’t an individual.  It is the Rules Committee at the Masters.