From Steve DiMeglio, USA TODAY Sports
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — On the Saturday morning of the 2008 Masters, Brandt Snedeker was called into an office at Augusta National and asked to explain a possible rules infraction from the day before.
Snedeker had said in a news conference Friday that he had asked playing partner Tom Watson for advice during the second round. A viewer phoned in and said Snedeker might have committed a violation because asking a player for advice is against the rules.
But as Snedeker would explain, the advice he sought didn't deal with golf.
"I had let them know it was about how to travel on tour with your family, how to do stuff like that, not how to play the 11th hole at Augusta National," Snedeker said Tuesday as he prepared for The Players Championship.
Snedeker said he was uncomfortable then — "It's like getting called into the principal's office," he said — and he's uncomfortable to this day with viewers calling in and becoming part of the competition.
He's not the only one. Recent incidents involving Tiger Woods in the Masters and Sergio Garcia in the Wells Fargo Championship have brought the issue to light again. Both cases involved a viewer phoning to report a rules violation, resulting in a subsequent two-stroke penalty for Woods for hitting a shot from the wrong spot and no penalty for Garcia.
Under the U.S. Golf Association Rules of Golf, rule 27, decision 12, "Testimony of those who are not part of the competition, including spectators, must be accepted and evaluated. It is also appropriate to use television footage and the like to assist in resolving doubt."
It's not a favorite rule among many players.
"I don't think that fans, as great as we are about bringing fans close to the game and feeling like they're part of it, I don't think fans should be able to call in and dictate the outcome of a tournament, saying we see a rule broken and blah, blah, blah," Snedeker said.
"I think the problem is, and the reason we get upset about it is, people are calling in to test our integrity, saying we think you're breaking a rule and we think you're cheating. And when you know you didn't do anything wrong and you have somebody calling in and questioning you, I don't care if you're cleared of it. It still makes you feel uncomfortable."
Garcia was uncomfortable for about 45 minutes last week when a viewer called and said he had improperly marked his ball on the 17th green in the third round. After reviewing the tape, Garcia was cleared of any violation.
"I think it's been done forever, so it will be a difficult thing to get rid of," Garcia said. "Golf is funny. You can't show everyone, so everyone doesn't get the same treatment. Some people will do something that will not be in front of the cameras and nothing happens.
"It's unfair. But what is the best solution for it? You can't have everybody on TV, so it will always be unfair."
Rickie Fowler calls it unjust.
"Name one other sport where you can call in?" Fowler said. "An umpire misses a call, and do people call? A ref misses a call in football or basketball? If they let people call in, the games would never get done. So why do we allow it in golf? I just don't understand it. They are not part of the competition."
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