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Most contentious moments of Golf in 2016

Sameer Bahl

USGA makes a meal of Dustin Johnson’s US Open final round ruling

USGA got it’s assesment of Dustin’s ball’s movement on the fifth green in the final round of the US Open, very wrong. In the words of the USGA’s executive director, Mike Davis, the USGA made a “big bogey” in stroking Dustin Johnson for a moving ball penallty in the final round of the US Open.

He called for the referee immediately when his ball moved even though he had not addressed the ball and was adjudged to have not caused the movement. Hence, he was asked to go ahead with the putt without replacing the ball.

The USGA committee further reviewed the incident and found video evidence where DJ was seen grounding his putter very close to the ball, following which there was visible movement of the ball. The committee overturned the referee’s decision and awarded DJ a one-stroke penalty.

The subjective nature of the rule 18-2, that came into effect, to the haphazard handling of the incident; it was a public relations disaster that could have well been amplified had it caused Dustin Johnson to come up short in his pursuit of winning a major yet again. What comes as a relief is the USGA’s decision to amend the rule in 2017.

Ryder Cup fans

The American fans crossed the line on multiple occasions at the 2016 Ryder Cup in Hazeltine. While majority of the fans maintined the decorum and were well-behaved, there was a certain minority that was booing and heckling Team Europe. There was over the top behaviour and the vulgar and vocal minority often got singled out by the US Captain, Davis Love and US Ryder Cup player, Jordan Spieth.

PJ Willett, Danny Willett’s brother, described the US fans as a “baying mob of imbeciles” and “pudgy basement-dwelling irritants” in an article on the National Club Golfer website during the Ryder Cup week. Whether the fans crossed the line is a matter of perception and location but a good number of the gallery’s finest stooped down to the level that Pete Willett described in his tongue-in-cheek offering.

Rory McIlroy was quick to point out the hostile environment created by the US fans: “Most of the people out there are respectful and are just cheering really hard for the U.S. team," said McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland but now lives in Florida. "That's totally acceptable and that's exactly what happens in Europe. But still, it's a hostile environment that the people out there don't want you to hole a putt. They don't want you to hit a good shot.”

"I think when you do hole a putt or hit a good shot, it just makes it that much more satisfying. I'm obviously not fazed by anything said by the crowd."

Tiger Woods backs out of his Safeway Open committment

With Tiger Woods having been on the sidelines for over 14 months, his announcement that he would be targeting a return at the Safeway Open had the golfing world in a tail-spin. However, after signing up to play in the tournament just days before, his withdrawal from the tournament citing vulnerability of his game had everyone perplexed.

It led to all sorts of questions rising up with some asking if he was truly over and whether he had the drive and hunger to win again. He did put an end to those questions by saying that he was working his hardest to get back to his best and followed up with a return at his own event in the Bahamas, the Hero World Challenge.

However, his decision to withdraw left a lot of fans in the cold and many who had purchased Safeway Open tickets just to watch Tiger were left dissappointed.

Muirfield loses Open Championship privileges

Muirfield Golf Club in East Lothian, Scotland which is privately owned and run by the Honorary Company of Edinburgh Golfers, decided to remain a men-only club after the members voted against allowing women to join the golf club.

"Our club committee recommended that members should vote for the admission of women as members of the club," said Muirfield captain Henry Fairweather.

"A majority of members voted for women as members of the club, but the two-thirds majority that we require for a change in the rules was not met. The club, therefore, will retain its men-only membership policy.”

The R&A reacted immediately by removing Muirfield from the Open Championship rota and announcing that the club will no longer be considered to host the tournament.

The R&A said: "Going forward we will not stage @TheOpen at a venue that does not admit women as members."

"The Open is one of the world's great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers

"If the policy at the club should change, we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue in future."

Many players defended the R&A’s decision to remove Murifield, which last hosted the Open in 2013 when Phil Mickelson won, with Rory McIlroy saying that Muirfield’s vote symbolizes Golf’s “stuffy old image” at a time when the game is trying to be more inclusive.

Rory McIlroy’s Olympic comments

Rory McIlroy was not the only top name to give a miss to Golf’s return to the Olympics but was one of the vocal ones on the topic.

“Honestly, I don't think it was as difficult a decision for me as it was for him Jordan Spieth” Mcilroy said. “I don't feel like I've let the game down at all. I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships, and all of a sudden you get to this point and there is a responsibility on you to grow the game, and I get that. But at the same time that's not the reason that I got into golf. I got into golf to win. I didn't get into golf to get other people into the game.

“But, look, I get where different people come from and different people have different opinions. But I'm very happy with the decision that I've made and I have no regrets about it. I'll probably watch the Olympics, but I'm not sure golf will be one of the events I watch.” When pressed which events those would be, he replied: “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving… the stuff that matters.”

In all, the top 4 men golfers decided to pull out of the tournament citing the ZIka virus which has been linked with crippling birth defects and 20 male golfers in total asked for their names to be removed from the entry list whereas only one female golfer pulled out of the event.

The event proved to be a grand success with the golfers enjoying an interactive experience with other top athletes from different sports, something that they often don’t get a chance to do.

Erik Compton’s disqualification for a ridiculous reason

Erik Compton was disqualified from the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour for missing the pro-am. However, Compton ony became part of the pro-am field when two others had to drop out. When Compton was notified about his inclusion, he was hours away from the course.

Compton ended up losing his tour card and may now quit professional golf. Erik is a two time heart transplant recipient who has special permission from the PGA Tour to use a golf-cart and continue taking banned anti-rejection pills.

The PGA Tour has such rules to maintain the viability of the pro-am and rightfully so. However, that shouldn’t come at an expense of compassion and common sense.

Edited by Staff Editor

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