Historical ruling controversies that plague the Tour circuit

Golf has long been known as a “gentleman’s game”, the type of game where a player calls a penalty on themselves. It still doesn’t come without ruling controversy though.

I still remember the 2010 Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head Island where Brian Davis was headed for his first career PGA tour win and was in a playoff with the great Jim Furyk. Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself and basically conceded to Furyk at that point.

Making sure the rules are understood by each player has come to the forefront of this 2017 U.S. Open due to the rules controversy that marred last year’s Open. Dustin Johnson, who won last year’s Open anyways, was called for a very controversial penalty because his ball moved incrementally on the 15th green, and they said it was his fault, even though it wasn’t.

Ironically this wasn’t the first time Dustin Johnson has been involved in a rules controversy at a major championship. At the 2010 PGA championship, the rules officials determined that on his second shot at the par-4 18th, Johnson grounded his club into the bunker, even though nobody could determine if Johnson was in a bunker or not. This cost him his first major win.

At the 1958 Masters, which was Arnold Palmer’s first Masters victory, Palmer hit his tee shot on the par-3 12th behind the green. Both Palmer and his playing partner Ken Venturi decided he was entitled to take a relief, but rules official Arthur Lacey overruled that decision and told Palmer to play it as it is. Palmer ended up taking a double bogey. However, he declared a second ball where his tee shot landed, then somehow got up and down for a par. Three holes later, the rules officials ruled in Palmer’s favor, and the rest is history.

The most famous rules controversy in history was without a doubt Casey Martin and his ability to use a cart on the PGA Tour. Martin has a rare leg condition called Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome. Martin took his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 that he could use a cart on the PGA Tour.

Rules controversies extend to the ladies as well. At the 2010 Safeway Classic, Julie Inkster used a practice aid while waiting on a tee box. She was disqualified from the tournament after a fan who was watching it on TV called it in. This happened to Lexi Thompson at this season’s ANA Inspiration as well.

At the 1972 Bluegrass Invitational, Jane Blalock improperly marked her ball on the 17th hole. She was disqualified from the tournament as well. In addition, the LPGA executive board determined she had cheated on several previous occasions and was suspended from the tour for a year as a result.

Golf has a long history of some very strange ruling violations, many of which are called in by fans, such as in the case of Inkster. Personally, I think those fans need to get a life, and I am glad that aspect of the game is being changed in upcoming years.

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