Watching the recent vice presidential debate while attending the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Turkey made me think about the top debated issues in golf.
Whether on the course, in the clubhouse, or at the bar after a round, these are issues golfers and golf fans like to argue about:
Appearance fees - This issue fascinates me as it's kind of secret world, usually only discussed behind closed doors, and many golf fans aren't even aware of it. An appearance fee is a fee paid to a golfer just to show up. A famous player may make more than a million dollars just to appear at a tournament regardless of his performance. This would be above and beyond any winnings.
The PGA does not allow them, yet will allow a tournament to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide an all-inclusive, first-class experience, including private jet travel for players and their families. Those rules are not in place in Europe and the Middle East, and players are routinely paid high appearance fees for events there.
Those against the process feel players lose their incentive when guaranteed money. I disagree. Top professionals like Tiger Woods never want to lose, even if they are getting paid whether they win or not. I agree with the practice and understand how having a player like Woods brings a huge amount of attention and publicity to an event, so it's worth it to pay him to appear. As for other players complaining, Tiger's presence and that added visibility and attention also helps them.
Use of long putters - Long (or belly) putters have extended shafts, allowing players to steady them against their belly or even chest. Current PGA and international rules allow their use, but I think they should be banned. Pros like Tiger Woods also agree; he feels the putter should be no longer than the shortest club in the bag. Also, PGA Tour pro Ernie Els also agrees with me. He was quoted, ''As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them.''
I think long putters should be banned as they provide an unfair advantage, just like using a driver with a huge head. The issue needs to be addressed. At the recent PGA Championship, 50 of the 156 players used them. I think more and more players are using them because they do provide an advantage and as long as they are allowed, many players feel they would be at a disadvantage by not using them. Official USGA golf rule changes are made every four years, so even if the rule was changed, it would not take effect until 2016.
Who is golf's greatest player? - Here's a golf debate that has probably gone on for hundreds of years since right after the first game was played. I think there are only three names to debate: Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods. I think it's Tiger as he is still playing and can add to his incredible stats. Woods has won 74 PGA Tour events (including 14 majors) and has 98 overall wins worldwide.
Playing from 1962 through 2003, Nicklaus won 73 official Tour victories (including 19 majors) with 118 wins worldwide. Bobby Jones doesn't have the volume of wins that Tiger or the Golden Bear, but he was one of the sport's first superstars. He was the first player to win both the U.S. and British Open the same year (1926), and in 1930 he won the Grand Slam (British Amateur, British Open, U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur).
Should men and women compete against each other - I think golf really lends itself to co-ed competition, and I'm surprised we don't see more of it. I feel men and women can compete on an equal level as golf takes coordination and endurance rather than just raw physical strength. Things like tee distance can compensate for any physical strength or size differences. There is no rule against women competing in PGA tournaments, but only a few have even qualified and no woman has ever won one. Babe Didrikson Zaharias qualified for the Los Angeles Open in 1938 and 1945, missing the cut both times. But she played in two Tour events in 1945, finishing 33rd and 42nd. More recently, Michelle Wie qualified for three PGA Tour events in 2004, 2005 and 2006, missing the cut all three times.
Walking vs. using a golf cart - To me, part of the endurance aspect of golf is walking the full 18 holes. A player needs to be in great aerobic condition to be able to maintain that top level of play from the first to the last hole. I do not think players, even with disabilities, should be able to play on the Tour unless they can walk the course. The issue was really brought to public attention in 1997 when golfer Casey Martin made the PGA Tour, but a degenerative leg condition forced him to need to use a cart. The PGA, with a rule that the course must be walked, refused. Martin sued and the case went the to U.S. Supreme Court. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Martin's favor. Martin soon left the Tour but recently returned, playing his first major tournament since the 1998 U.S. Open (and using a golf cart).
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