The national attention that has been brought to the PGA Tour, its rules and the ability of the fan to call in infractions began to fire my brain bytes. There absolutely has to be a better way because that plan just does not work. I have talked about why it does not work previously in PGA Tour Rules Violations: Tiger, Stars Punished by Fan Interference so I am not going to exhaust why beyond the simple fact that it is not fair for to all of the 156 players in most PGA Tour events..
The current model allows for fans to call in and question a possible infraction. The decision is covered under Rule34-3/9 but just because the rule exists does not make it right. Many rules are created when there is an absence of an alternative. I am going to present that alternative in this piece. Will this plan be perfect? Probably not but it will be a logical and viable step in the right direction for the PGA Tour that currently does not have a fair and equitable call in system.
The PGA Tour tried replay in 1991 as a knee jerk reaction to results of the Doral-Ryder Open when Paul Azinger was disqualified after a viewer called in the tape delayed infraction. The original implementation included an official to monitor telecasts. This was destined to cause problems for two reasons. First the ruling would be arbitrary and inconsistent because the official could only see what the broadcast provided.
Secondly, the implementation of replay took away the judgment call in place where playing partners would decide a situation. At the Byron Nelson Classic Tom Kite hit a ball in a water hazard. Kite and his playing partner agreed on where the ball crossed allowing him to drop. However, the official watching the broadcast disagreed and forced Kite to hit another from the tee.
Three months into the use of replay it was voted on and abruptly removed in favor of the traditional way the game is played and allowing the fans to contact the tour. Since then it has never been a viable option and until now nobody has attempted to come up with a better way. I believe that way exists and I have outlined it below at a high level.
The PGA Tour in its current state is not properly configured to handle rules infractions that appear during a competitive event.
The current method of allowing “call in” infraction notifications is unfair to all 156 players (field size is dependent on tournament field) in any competitive event.
The growth in the technological realm has afforded the tour options that were not present in the initial replay implementation.
High Level Implementation
What is not Reviewable
During a competitive round, if a players shot come to rest in a water hazard then players will conform to Rule 26-1. Replay officials will not be able to override the joint decision of players within a group. The exception to this statement is the replacement or dropping of the ball under Rule 20 with shall be defined later.
During a competitive round, if a players shot come to rest out of bounds or a ball is lost then players will conform to Rule 27-1. Replay officials will not be able to override the joint decision of players within a group.
All strokes played from the tee box to the fairway will not be subject to replay. The result and possible punishment for those strokes will be decided jointly by the player, their playing partner and the PGA Tour official on that hole.
All strokes played from the fairway to the fairway will not be subject to replay. The result and possible punishment for those strokes will be decided jointly by the player, their playing partner and the PGA Tour official on that hole.
All strokes played from the fairway to the green will not be subject to replay. The result and possible punishment for those strokes will be decided jointly by the player, their playing partner and the PGA Tour official on that hole.
What is Reviewable
Lifting, Dropping and Placing: Playing from the wrong place as covered in Rule 20 will be reviewable by the replay official to ensure proper placement of the ball and a fair and equitable environment is continued throughout the round.
Strokes that come to rest outside of the fairway but not in a water hazard or out of bounds will be subject to replay.
How Replay will Function
Two PGA Tour officials will be present in the “replay location” from the first tee time through the completion of that days rounds.
The PGA Tour will place a camera man on each side of all 18 holes present in a competitive round (a total of 36 camera men) whenever possible but a minimum of one roving cameraman per hole is required. The camera man’s job will be to gain a position near, but not intruding, the player to evaluate and film their approach, pre-shot routine and execution of the shot in question.
Note: These cameramen are already employed and located on the course for any competitive round. The change is assigning to a specific hole and side for that day’s events.
That film will be automatically sent via wireless connection to the “replay location” where an official will review each shot in question while logging the shot into a searchable software database created for each days competitive round. The logging function is merely a naming convention saved to the days folder. These actions are almost completely automated with today’s technology.
If the official determines there was no infraction on the shot then that file is stored and no further action is taken.
If the official determines there was an infraction that file is placed in a queue within the database to review after the players completes their round but before they sign their scorecards.
Players will depart the final green of their rounds and process through the “replay location” where they will be told if they have a valid round or if an infraction occurred.
If no infraction was detected players sign their scorecards and proceed to the remainder of their days activities.
If an infraction is detected then the player, their playing partner and the official will review the tape for a majority decision. Once the decision is passed down the players will modify their scorecards and sign them marking the end of that days competitive round.
Once players depart the “replay location” no further action can be taken against the player in question.
This is the high level approach of a viable, fair and equitable replay system for the PGA Tour. Later in the winter, during the off-season, I will release the complete in depth replay system model. This plan will not drastically add to time during and after a sanctioned PGA Tour event. Rather this model will eliminate the unfair practice of fans calling in and ensure that proper decisions are made for all players in the field. It might seem like a departure from how the game is played and other ideas but it is a plan that can and would work if implemented by the PGA Tour. Just because things have been done a certain way in the past does not make it right. Welcome to a new era, an era littered with technological advancement. Take advantage of it and help the tour flourish. Let’s hear your take on this plan or replay in golf in general. What do you think? Time to sound off.