5. Two rules debacles highlighted the first two days of the Solheim Cup. Is it time to change and/or simplify the rules to prevent these future half-hour delays, or were these simply a matter of proper handling, but bad luck for the LPGA?
Bamberger: The rules can and should be simplified. Sometimes, as in Tiger's drop at Augusta, the choices should be more limited, to save time and ease confusion. But once you delve deep into any rule of golf you see there are years and decades of logic and real-life example built into every word and comma.
Passov: Maybe we should bring in Golf Magazine's Rules Guy to answer this. On the one hand, we're now semi-content to wait out football replays that can stop the action for 10 minutes, but on the other, these were such buzzkillers for the golfers and for a golf telecast. "While we're young?" Let's simplify the rules by at least 50 percent, tradition be damned. Golf takes too long to play as it is.
Walker: The rules of golf are in need of an overhaul. Peter Kostis has suggested five good places to start: "The Five Dumbest Rules in Golf".
Van Sickle: There's no excuse for a rules debate to last 30 minutes. That's on the match official for not taking charge and making a decision. After the Fred Ridley-Tiger decision at the Masters, though, I can see how some officials may be loathe to pull the trigger and be wrong. The rules are fine.
Sens: The rules have been around for a long time and they’ve worked pretty well up to now. No need to change them. The snafus this weekend stemmed from human error: on the part of the officials and the players themselves. (As U.S. captain Meg Mallon acknowledged, the Americans didn’t properly challenge the incorrect ruling over Carlota’s Ciganda’s drop). As with many things, the rules are only as good as the people enforcing and following them. It’s up to them to do a better job.
Ritter: Stroke and distance penalties for O.B. shots could easily be wiped off the books. But the big delays at the Solheim were for balls that disappeared in hazards, and officials couldn't figure out where the competitors should take their drops. It was bad luck, but I also wonder if they were properly staffed out there. Those kind of rulings shouldn't take that long.
Lynch: We can't blame complicated rules for this debacle since it was a qualified rules official who botched the call, not an unwitting player. I'd suggest the weather delay did more to dampen an otherwise good week than the rules. There's no such thing as bad publicity for an event in search of an audience.
6. The PGA Tour has nixed the caddie races that took place the past few years at Phoenix and Colonial. A sensible end for a circus-like sideshow, or a shortsighted call on a slice of pure fun for the fans?
Passov: No one is calling either one of those events a fifth major, and for heaven's sake, Mr. Finchem, we're talking Phoenix, where half the fans in attendance are only vaguely aware that there's a golf tournament in progress. Let the caddies run!
Sens: Short-sighted. Granted, the Tour wants to preserve a sense of decorum and prevent tournaments from turning into outright carnivals. But it should pick its battles, and this was not the right one to fight. The Scottsdale event, in particular, is famously raucous, and caddie races feel in keeping with its spirit. If caddie races started turning up at the PGA Championship, I’d be worried. But as they are, the races are just a bit of harmless fun that runs little risk of interfering with the actual play -- unlike, say, morons yelling "Baba Booey" in the middle of someone’s backswing. Those are the people the Tour should crack down on. Not a few caddies getting cardio.
Bamberger: I would have said keep them at Phoenix, on a special-exemption basis, but it's hard to have special exemptions in a corporate world. And the PGA Tour is most decidedly a corporate world.
Ritter: Definitely not the kind of move that makes golf seem hip and cool to the masses. (Not coincidentally, most golf legislation falls in the same class.) The races were harmless, except to the occasional caddie hamstring. I'll miss it.
Walker: The Tour should be trying to make more events like Phoenix, not the other way around.
Lynch: Instead of slowing down caddies the Tour ought to start speeding up players.
Van Sickle: Caddie races are fun until somebody shoots their eye out. Nobody will be laughing then.
7. Four unknown, college-age international players reached the semis of the U.S. Amateur, reducing any and all buzz factor for the event. Is it time to yank the "automatic" Masters invitations for both the winner and runner-up of the U.S. Amateur?
Van Sickle: So I guess you're no good unless you're a well-known college player? How many college players are well-known in a given year? Anyone who wins the U.S. Amateur is a national champion. Their marquee value isn't part of the discussion about whether they should be invited to the Masters.
Passov: Our national amateur has lost its juice for me. Perhaps because of match play's unpredictability, we're seeing too many fluke winners in recent years. If you want to tip your cap to the legacy of Bobby Jones and amateur golf, reward a few amateurs who have earned it via a points system over many tournaments, or else tap into the "career" amateurs and give a second spot coming out of the U.S. Mid-Am.
Sens: No. What is this, a citizenship requirement? Last I checked, these guys aren’t running for president. Besides, who’s to say these “unknowns” won’t go on to contend at the Masters and become very well known along the way. Changing the invitation policy in response to dominant performances by players from overseas would be small-minded. It would also ignore the fact that golf has grown into a global game---a globalization that the Masters itself has helped support.
Ritter: Do you want to take even more buzz out of the U.S. Am? I'm still fine with the Masters tie-in.
Walker: The amateurs, along with the past champs, are a big part of what makes the Masters special. The U.S. Amateur is the premier amateur event in the world, which is the reason we have so many international players in the field. I wouldn't eliminate any of those invites.
Bamberger: Losing seldom gets such a grand reward, but the Masters is trying so hard to keep amateurism alive. I'd keep it for now but keep looking for maybe another, better way to get another amateur in the field.
Lynch: Would this question even be posed had an American won or even made the final four? The issue isn't the provenance of the players, nor even the fact that they're "unknown" -- most amateurs are unknown to fans until they win big. The real downer for the U.S. Amateur now is the annual absence of a genuine feel-good story of a dogged veteran making a run. The event is a coming-out show for the best college-age players in the world, who are pros in all but name. Accept it for what it is. If we're talking about yanking Masters invites, there are probably a few categories worth looking at. This isn't one of them.