Armchair referees can put down their phones the next time they’re watching a PGA Tour event.
The R&A and United States Golf Association have unanimously agreed to a new rule that would end call-in rules violations from television viewers. As of Jan. 1, 2018, governing bodies will have an umpire to monitor the video broadcast of a competition. They will also stop providing access to tournament officials from outside sources, such as television callers.
“The level of collaboration with our partners has been both vital and gratifying as we look to the future,” Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of the rules of golf and amateur status, said in a release. “As technology has continued to evolve, it has allowed us to evolve how we operate, as well.”
The new rule will also limit the video that can be reviewed to that created by the event’s broadcast partner. No cell phone video footage can be used to show a possible violation.
There have been scores of call-in violations that have affected the outcome of tournaments, like Lexi Thompson’s four-stoke penalty for improperly marking her ball at last year’s ANA Inspiration.
In another high-profile incident, Tiger Woods was assessed a penalty at the 2014 Masters after taking what was ruled an improper drop. That incident was called in by former Champions Tour player David Eger.
Others who have been caught by television viewers include Tom Watson, who as caught giving advice to fellow player Lee Trevino at the 1980 Tournament of Champions, and Craig Stadler, who was penalized for kneeling on a towel while trying to hit a shot from under a tree. A caller reported that was considered building a stance.
The new rule gives power back to the officials, as it does in just about every sport. It’s a long-overdue change and will be welcome by players and officials everywhere.