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Cheating and Policing on the PGA Tour


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Brandel Chamblee, in talking about Patrick Reed, told the story of playing with one of apparently several known "cheats" on the PGA Tour in the Waialae event, and how he witnessed rules infractions but didn't do anything except note it to an official after the round.

Greg Norman (and a few others) had issues with Mark McCumber in the 80s and 90s.

#BackStopping

Phil Mickelson has made note of how many cheaters are out there on the PGA Tour, whether it's in regard to marking their ball incorrectly, taking "favorable" drops, stretching the truth a bit on where they're going to play or the shot they're going to hit if a sprinkler head is nearby… etc.

Players are accused somewhat often of tamping down the grass behind the ball with clubs, even though that's within the Rules, but many imply that others take "extra" advantage of this grey area in the Rules (Kostis on Reed, others re: Keegan Bradley, etc.).

Ryan Palmer and Hideki Matsuyama moved a divot out of the way when a ball was rolling toward the area (or something like that) and the PGA Tour rules officials didn't penalize them, and their playing partners had nothing to say.


Look, I get that calling out one of your peers for cheating can be tough, and if a guy is missing the cut or even losing to you by three or four or five, your personal benefits might not outweigh the negatives.

Some questions, then:

  • Isn't it their obligation to do so, under the Rules of Golf?
  • Are Tour players lacking the balls to call out fellow players?
  • Should they do this more often?
  • Do we care, as fans?
  • How widespread is cheating at the PGA Tour level?

What do you think?

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31 minutes ago, iacas said:

Some questions, then:

  • Isn't it their obligation to do so, under the Rules of Golf?
  • Are Tour players lacking the balls to call out fellow players?
  • Should they do this more often?
  • Do we care, as fans?
  • How widespread is cheating at the PGA Tour level?

What do you think?

1. It is their obligation to report anything that can realistically be a penalty. They need to do it in order to protect the field if nothing else. A guy may be slamming the trunk either way but he still owes it to those guys that have a chance.

2. "Lacking the balls" sounds a bit harsh, but there are very real drawbacks. Focus is so important and a lot of guys would struggle with their own games after having to deal with a rules incident involving a playing partner. That's not to mention the media attention that would surely follow the round. No question most players would want to avoid that.

3. Yes, for the reason stated in the first answer. 

4. Given the explosion of Patrick Reed threads, I'd say obviously we do. It is probably an out-of-sight out-of-mind type thing most of the time, but when it is in front of our faces, it's pretty huge.

5. Competitive golfers will naturally push any advantage they can and sometimes they'll go over the line. I really doubt it happens more often now than it used to. If anything the omnipresent high-def TV camera has to keep some of this in check. Still, you'd probably have at least a couple of extra penalty strokes each day of PGA Tour competition if they caught everything.

 

Edited by mcanadiens
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34 minutes ago, iacas said:

Isn't it their obligation to do so, under the Rules of Golf?

To me this falls under Rule 1.3b. 

"If two or more players deliberately agree to ignore any Rule or penalty they know applies and any of those players have started the round, they are disqualified (even if they have not yet acted on the agreement)."

If there is a unspoken rule that golfers not call out penalties on each other, then that is a deliberate agreement to not obey the rules. Yea, I think that every one who does this should be disqualified. It would be hard to prove. They could just lie about it. 

43 minutes ago, iacas said:

Are Tour players lacking the balls to call out fellow players?

I think so. I don't think they want to stand out as that guy who calls people out. When growing up, who wants to be the tattle tale. 

44 minutes ago, iacas said:

Should they do this more often?

I think the culture should be that they enforce the rules. It is 100% unfair to those who play a clean round that this is allowed. There are probably some who don't care, but I am sure there are those who care about it but will not speak out about it. 

45 minutes ago, iacas said:

Do we care, as fans?

I do, because I like that golf has rules that are self policing. It makes it a unique in the sense that other sports you try to get away with a lot of stuff because the officials will not see it. In golf, that is suppose to be the opposite. 

46 minutes ago, iacas said:

How widespread is cheating at the PGA Tour level?

I don't think it is to widespread. I wonder if it has toned down a bit since there are more TV cameras and people will cell phones that can catch you cheat. At least, I think it doesn't happen much for those near the top of the leader board. I think we would be seeing it happen more often. 

Its all about incentives and a person's character. I think there is enough eyes on you that the incentive is low for those who are in contention at least. 

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47 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

I wonder if it has toned down a bit since there are more TV cameras and people will cell phones that can catch you cheat.

There's also a lot more money available than back in the 80s or whatever.

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

Players are accused somewhat often of tamping down the grass behind the ball with clubs, even though that's within the Rules

You're allowed to do that? Wouldn't it be considering improving your lie? 

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41 minutes ago, klineka said:

You're allowed to do that? Wouldn't it be considering improving your lie? 

See Matt's post.

I said accused of "tamping" down, when they're just soling their club behind the ball. If you actually "tamp" down, as in applying more force than the weight of the club, then no, you can't.

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I recently watched the documentary "Icarus". The story starts with a high level amateur cyclist who participates in an race in France without any doping and finishes 14th out of a hundred or so. He states at that time that there is a top 10 and second group and then him. Immediately following he embarks on a strategy of doping to both prove that you can avoid detection and also improve your performance. After going onto a Lance Armstrong like procedure in terms of training and doping, he returns to run the race again. He proceeds to finish 24th. He outlines that it wouldn't matter how much he doped he wasn't going to even win this amateur event let alone a Tour de France.

The movie changes to follow a Russian scientist who blows the whistle on the Russian Olympic team, but one of my takeaways is that cheating alone isn't going to make you great. It does shave off margins, and I agree in high level sports those are important, but winning involves multiple factors.

I post this to postulate that even Patrick Reed took a bad ruling, he won because of more than just that ruling. I think there is probably a camera on 90% of the shots he takes once he even gets close to contention and because of a few previously bad decisions he is now judged more harshly. He won because he is a very good golfer not because he cheated.

BTW, the movie is on Netflix and I highly recommend it.

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11 minutes ago, mchepp said:

I think there is probably a camera on 90% of the shots he takes once he even gets close to contention and because of a few previously bad decisions he is now judged more harshly.

Wouldn’t the part I’ve marked in bold be true for pretty much anyone on the weekend? Especially if it’s not just “close to contention” but actually in the lead?

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12 minutes ago, Missouri Swede said:

Wouldn’t the part I’ve marked in bold be true for pretty much anyone on the weekend? Especially if it’s not just “close to contention” but actually in the lead?

Yes, point being it isn't even easy to cheat.

I think my larger point is that the PGA Tour does not have a cheating problem.

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18 minutes ago, mchepp said:

I think my larger point is that the PGA Tour does not have a cheating problem.

I don't know that an argument that talks about 90% of the guys being on TV (and even then only really when they're about ready to play their shot) speaks to cheating that may be occurring in other groups early on Thursday or Friday, or before they're being recorded, etc.

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I think for the most part they’re a bunch of pansies. Like little school kids whispering. F*** that. Call them out. Get it out in the open. Dirty football players are called out all the time. Own it, argue it whatever. I wish these pansies, like Phil, Kostis, who say things like ‘ I know...’ should own it and let it out. 

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4 minutes ago, iacas said:

I don't know that an argument that talks about 90% of the guys being on TV (and even then only really when they're about ready to play their shot) speaks to cheating that may be occurring in other groups early on Thursday or Friday, or before they're being recorded, etc.

Fair point.

Your question was about how widespread, and I guess my answer is not addressing that. I am answering more of a question about does it affect the outcome (more specifically winning) of the tournament.

I think without visual evidence it makes it hard to know how widespread it is. It is hard to call someone out without visual proof. You could bring the other guy in the group over if you are in a 3-some, but they likely are not wanting to be bothered with that to keep their own focus on playing well. Without that kind of evidence it is they said/they said issue.

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So here's my theory. 

         Sometimes PGA players break the rules and the players in their group don't notice.

         Sometimes PGA players break the rules and the guys in their group don't know they cheated because they also don't know the rules.

         Sometimes PGA players break the rules and the guys in their group don't say anything. 

Overall, however, I'm guessing intentional rule breaking isn't that common among the PGA players. I don't know how to put a percentage on it. But I'm guessing it happens pretty rarely. 

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14 minutes ago, ChetlovesMer said:

Overall, however, I'm guessing intentional rule breaking isn't that common among the PGA players. I don't know how to put a percentage on it. But I'm guessing it happens pretty rarely. 

Depending on your definition, comments by Brandel, Phil, Jimmy, etc. contradict.

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4 hours ago, iacas said:

Some questions, then:

  • Isn't it their obligation to do so, under the Rules of Golf?
  • Are Tour players lacking the balls to call out fellow players?
  • Should they do this more often?
  • Do we care, as fans?
  • How widespread is cheating at the PGA Tour level?

What do you think?

1) I'm not sure if it is required by the Rules of Golf, unless mutually agreed to cover up and/or break a rule as per @saevel25post above,  but I feel it should be their obligation to protect the integrity of the game and create a level playing field for all competing.  One stroke is a cut made or missed and could be very large difference in prize money.  My only problem in this area is it begins to erode the "Self Policing" aspect.  Maybe, if you call a penalty on yourself you get the penalty stated in the rules but if you do not call it on yourself and another player needs to bring it to your attention or the attention of an official then there is an added penalty stroke.  The idea would be to encourage better self-policing.  This may slow the game a little if players feel the need to call the RO on many borderline situations.

2) I think "Yes" but only The Pros know if they have seen & ignored a rules breach, all we can do is speculate.  I believe they are fearful of calling out a player because that may lead to them being called out.  The problem with my idea above is it may create more fear of reporting an incident since the backlash may be even more harsh.  This also gets real sticky with the borderline calls.  Maybe instead of the other players calling the RO immediately, he might say something casual that tells the offending player to voluntarily rethink the situation and only call the RO if certain there is a breach not being addressed.

3) Yes

4) Yes

5) Hard to say since we see only the shots shown on the TV unless we are are there in person and then we see only a fraction of the shots based on who we are following or which hole we are watching.  If you assume 150 players with average score of par 72 then there are @ 10,800 shots per round.  I want to believe intentional rule breaches are the exception.

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7 minutes ago, iacas said:

Depending on your definition, comments by Brandel, Phil, Jimmy, etc. contradict.

Yeah, I don't really know what to base anything on in this case. 
I've been to PGA events. I've seen PGA events. But I can't pretend to be a real insider. 

I do know that I try to follow the rules. I think most people try to do the right thing. 

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5 hours ago, iacas said:

 

  • Isn't it their obligation to do so, under the Rules of Golf?
  • Are Tour players lacking the balls to call out fellow players?
  • Should they do this more often?
  • Do we care, as fans?
  • How widespread is cheating at the PGA Tour level?

What do you think?

It is their obligation, but the backstopping controversy kind of indicated that there was a "cool players club" who helped each other out and scratched each others' backs.

Robert McIntyre incurred the wrath of Kyle Stanley when he criticised him on the course for not yelling "Fore!" As a rookie in his first Open, that was pretty ballsy.

I care because it makes people think it's normal. Like people giving and taking gimmes in non matchplay events.

I would guess that it's not widespread. Certainly some drops from sprinkler heads and paths are questionable. There would be marking infractions and there is absolutely anchoring on the Champions Tour with a couple of high profile players who use broomstick putters when the cameras are behind them.

As an amateur, I find it difficult to call players out and I have done it. Kind of ruins the day, but people have to learn that they're not invisible. For Tour players to speak up could have negative consequences.

Edited by Shorty
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