Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Tiger Woods Fined for Spitting

Warning: Not suitable for the easily upset at .03 seconds!
Apologies for the poor sound reproduction.
If you are receiving this blog by email click here for the video.

For someone who openly aspires to emulate and surpass the playing records of the golfing greats Tiger Woods doesn’t come close to most of them when it comes to his conduct, both on and off the course. Leaving aside his over-exposed personal life problems, it seems that f-bombs, club-throwing, scowling and spitting are all too frequently a part of his golf game. What a shame for someone who is undoubtedly an icon and role model for thousands of children of all nationalities. 

As you know, this blog is more interested in the operation of the Rules of Golf than in the rules of social behaviour. So, is there anything in the Rules book that is relevant to this unsavoury episode? Unfortunately, players who spit on the course cannot directly be penalised under any of the 34 Rules of Golf, or the 1200+ Decisions that clarify them. Some may argue that a Committee could disqualify a player who ejaculates their saliva onto the course for a serious breach of etiquette, but the only Decision on this element of Rule 33-7 seems to indicate that disqualification would not be warranted, particularly if no previous admonition had been given
33-7/8 Meaning of "Serious Breach of Etiquette"
Q. In Rule 33-7, what is meant by a "serious breach of etiquette"?
A. A serious breach of etiquette is behavior by a player that shows a significant disregard for an aspect of the Etiquette Section, such as intentionally distracting another player or intentionally offending someone.
Although a Committee may disqualify a player under Rule 33-7 for a single act that it considers to be a serious breach of etiquette, in most cases it is recommended that such a penalty should be imposed only in the event of a further serious breach.
Ultimately, the application of a penalty for a serious breach of etiquette under Rule 33-7 is at the discretion of the Committee.
The only other related Rule that I can think of, is whether a player may take relief if his ball comes to rest on another player’s spit (my apologies for the unpleasant image that this may invoke). [Edit 18th February, thanks to Barbara O’Keeffe] Decision 2/6 states;
Q. What is the status of saliva?
A. In equity (Rule 1-4), saliva may be treated as either an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a loose impediment (Rule 23-1), at the option of the player.
So, through the green, or in a bunker, a player whose ball lies on saliva may choose to drop their ball at the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole. When the player’s ball is on the putting green, they may mark their ball, lift and clean it, remove the spittle from the putting surface and replace it. Or, they can choose to place their ball at the nearest point that avoids the saliva, not nearer the hole. If their ball is on the putting green and the saliva is on their line of putt they may place their ball at the nearest point, not nearer the hole, that avoids them putting through this most abnormal ground condition.

It is reported that The European Tour has fined Tiger Woods for his deplorable action in Dubai, but like most of the fines that are imposed on Professional Tour golfers they will not confirm the amount. Not that any pecuniary fine is likely to bother someone who reportedly ‘earned’ over $3 million just for turning up at the Dubai Desert Classic.

I leave the last word on Woods’ offensive behaviour to the excellent British Sky Sports golf reporter, Ewen Murray, whose scathing on-air comment was;
“Somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It does not get much lower than that.”
Good golfing,

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Anonymous said...

Interestingly, during the Northern Trust Open I saw two other players spitting in full view of the cameras. One of them was Fred Couples, on the 18th green.

Whilst Tiger's actions may have been ungentlemanly, why were no complaints made against Couples?

Barry Rhodes said...


There were complaints about Freddie spitting, though I grant you not as many as for Golf's number one media star, Tiger. Here is a link to the video proof of his guilt;

It is not an acceptable practice on the golf course, whoever does it. And there is no doubt that it is on the increase.