May 10, 2013 | 57 comments
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April 16, 2013 | 12 comments
PGA grinches’ penalty stinks, stank, stunk.
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All of which brings into play Rule 1-4. It reads as follows: “If any point is not covered by the Rules, the decision shall be made in accordance with equity.”
Equity. “Equity” is defined by my Webster’s as “justice according to natural law or right” and as “… rules developed to enlarge, supplement or override a narrow rigid system of law.” There can be no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, no doubt under the heavens, that equity requires that Johnson’s score on the hole be scored according to the number of strokes he actually took. Equity overrides “a narrow or rigid system of law” especially when that system itself provides for “equity” in the case of a point being not definitively covered by the Rules as written. In short, equity allows for the good discretion of common sense.
The lawyer Philip K. Howard is known for his best-selling book The Death of Common Sense, the main point of which is that the area of equity ought to be expanded in the civil law and the expanse of narrow rigidity of senseless rules. In a game where sportsmanship reigns supreme, the sportsmanship should trump a rules rigidity of blindered and blinkered officials.
This is not like the famous cases involving scorecards mis-signed. While a penalty for a mis-signed scorecard may lead to a result that doesn’t seem fair, at least it does not involve any interpretation. Either the card was signed or it wasn’t. The official has no discretion. But in Johnson’s case on Sunday, there did indeed exist at least some discretion in adjudging what happened, on what sort of ground. Where discretion exists, and where equity overwhelmingly favors a ruling of “no harm, no foul,” then equity should prevail.
The PGA blew it. The fans were robbed of the three-way playoff that should have ensued. Victor Martin Kaymer was robbed of the sure knowledge that he had won fair and square, and of the recognition by the public that his win was untainted. And, of course, Dustin Johnson was robbed of a chance of a golfing lifetime to hoist above his head one of the four greatest trophies in the game.
The PGA has something on its face, and it may not even be egg. It smells a lot worse than rotten eggs. The game of golf was not ennobled yesterday (except by Johnson’s classy acceptance of his fate); it was polluted. Call it the Polluted Golf Association Championship, and banish its Sunday decision-makers to the outer realm of darkness where all officious, invasive, commonsense-less nimrods should reside.