PGA board to discuss policy on TV replays Players want return to honor system

June 02, 1991|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

POTOMAC -- Tom Kite still is a bit steamed even to think about it. But everywhere Kite has been since becoming the focal point of professional golf's latest controversy last month, someone is there to remind him.

A little -- uh -- instant replay of the facts:

On the 11th hole of the final round of the Byron Nelson Classic, Kite's tee shot landed in a water hazard. Kite thought the ball had crossed land, but, with the help of a replay, a PGA Tour official overruled him.

"It took a long time to sort out," recalled Kite, who ended up playing two balls on the hole, took a double bogey instead of a bogey and watched his chances at a comeback fade. "When you're trying to win a golf tournament, you don't need a bunch of distractions."

The tour's decision to use instant replay was the result of another ongoing controversy. At the Doral Open in March, a television viewer had called the tour office Saturday after watching Paul Azinger inadvertently move a stone while standing in a water hazard addressing his ball. Azinger was thus disqualified for signing an incorrect score card, going from in contention to incensed.

Those two incidents will be in the spotlight again this week, when the PGA Tour policy board meets Tuesday in Rye, N.Y. -- site of the Buick Classic -- to discuss whether to continue with the use of instant replay.

"We'll either keep it, or go back to the old way," said Sid Wilson, director of public relations for the tour. "There will be no modification of the rule."

It is apparent on which side of the issue the players stand. Since golf is a game in which the participants are expected to police themselves, most believe that the old system works. That is, minus the intrusion of some 15-handicapper from Poughkeepsie looking to tell his friends at the club that he just got some millionaire pro DQed.

"I think we've been doing just fine for the past 70 years or so," said tour player and Frederick native Donnie Hammond, who didn't know the instant-replay policy was in effect while he was watching Kite's situation played out on television.

"We've had three cases [of a fan calling in] in the 25 years we've been on television," said Kite, who once received the tour's Sportsmanship Award for calling a two-shot penalty on himself that cost him a tournament. "I don't think we need it."

Aside from Azinger, Craig Stadler was similarly disqualified from an event in 1987. After putting a towel under his knee while hitting out of a hazard, a viewer said that Stadler had improved his stance.

Trying to save on his cleaning bill ended up costing Stadler several thousands in prize money. The other case involved former tour pro Ron Streck, who was penalized two shots at the 1982 Tournament of Champions after a viewer said that Streck had bent a tree branch to take a swing.

"I think we all play by the rules," said tour veteran Andy Bean. "In Paul's case, he unknowingly broke a rule. It was unfortunate that they didn't find out before he signed his card."

Bean was caught a couple of years ago at the Canadian Open tapping in a two-inch putt with the top end of his putter. Though he lost two strokes, and a possible chance for a playoff, a PGA official watching at home notified the tournament office before Bean reached the scorer's tent.

"I was lucky to be caught," he said.

Two weeks ago, Bean said that a viewer had called the tour office saying that he had not taken a full stroke while tapping in a putt at the Memorial Tournament. Instead of having his two playing partners mark their balls that were in the way of his taking his stance, Bean reached down and gently nudged the ball into the cup.

"In a lot of sports, you are taught that you can get around certain rules," said Bean. "But in golf, it's black and white; there's no gray area."

Since the instant replay was put to use at the Nelson Classic, tour officials have been at each site, monitoring the television broadcast. It is similar to the system used by the NFL, though no touring pros have asked for a replay on their playing partners.

Kite said that as a result of the Azinger disqualification -- it came a few days after the last regularly scheduled policy-board meeting -- the instant replay was put into effect immediately by PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. A tour spokesman said last week that the players requested the replay.

Beman was unavailable for comment.

The policy board, which includes four tour players on its 10-man committee, is expected to recommend that the use of replays to interpret potential rule violations be dropped.

"I think they're going to close the door on it from what I've heard," said veteran Lanny Wadkins.

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