Story of the Day for Wed. October 3, 2012
The Joy of a Two-Stroke Penalty
. . . We are certain we have a clear conscience. We want to behave honorably in all we do.
Professional golfers play by strict, unbending rules. The rules state the situations where you must play the ball where it lies, and when you are allowed to move it. They even have rules for playing the ball if you hit it into an alligator’s mouth (I’m not making this up!)
In 1994, Davis Love III was playing in the Western Open near Chicago. He chipped a shot close to the hole and put a marker where his ball lay, but then moved his marker so it would be out of the putting line of the next golfer.
Later, as they continued play, Love couldn’t remember if he moved his marker back to the original spot. Whether he did or not, it made no difference to his “gimme” putt. He probably moved his marker according to the rules, but he just couldn’t remember.
The rule book states that, if you think it’s possible you committed an infraction, and no one else was present to judge the case, then you have committed an infraction.
So, Love penalized himself with a two-stroke penalty.
That penalty he called on himself knocked him out of the tournament. Without that penalty, he would have automatically qualified for the Masters.
In the end, it all worked out well for Love. He did qualify for the Masters by winning a PGA tournament in 1995. And he came in second in the Masters – winning over a quarter million dollars. But he did not know this at the time he gave himself the penalty that disqualified him from the tournament.
In his book, Every Shot I Take, Love does not consider what he did that day to be worthy of praise, and quotes Bobby Jones, “Don’t praise me for calling a penalty on myself. You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.” Yet, most ignore Love’s self-effacing comments and praise him anyway.
But, some think he is a fool. Why penalize yourself two strokes when you’re not even sure you committed a penalty? Why penalize yourself when, even if you did make a mental error, it was not intentional? And it did not affect your score? And, after asking everyone present, no one saw you commit a penalty?
Love’s defends the inflexible rules of his golf: “This may sound harsh to the non-golfer, but it’s not. Adhered to strictly, it eliminates the possibility of a golfer playing with a guilty conscience.”
Did you get that? Love believes the money and fame is not worth it, if he does not have a clear conscience.