LA JOLLA, CA — Controversial new rules aim to transform golf into a real sport
Tiger Woods unveiled his retooled swing at last weekend’s Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, but it wasn’t enough to improve his game or the ratings of professional golf on television. On the verge of negotiating new contracts with broadcast networks, PGA Tour officials have persuaded the USGA to put new rules on the fast track in the hopes of making golf more watchable.
PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, said the changes give golf a testosterone boost, adding the speed of NBA basketball and the aggression of NFL football. To position the improved game in the same class as these elite sports, its name will be upgraded to “Golfball.”
The rules will go into effect April 7 at the Master’s Tournament—now dubbed, “The Ultimate Master’s Tournament”—at Augusta National Golf Club. Officials at CBS, who will broadcast the tournament, were ecstatic at the news. Recent data by Neilsen Media Research indicates that nearly 69% of viewers fall asleep during golf telecasts. It’s an open secret within the professional golf community that even the players have difficulty staying awake during matches.
So what does the new Golfball game look like? As in current pro tournaments, golfers will play in groups of three. But under the new rules, all three will tee-off in unison at the firing of the starter’s pistol. After two minutes, the next threesome will be released. The winner of a round will be the golfer with the lowest total combination of time and strokes.
To make the game even more challenging, players will be able to move an opponent’s ball. “This is key to the new look of the game,” said Gene Mybeck who officiated a secret exhibition match last December at TPC Scottsdale. “At the tee-off, Tiger had the longest drive, then on the way to his ball, he ran a slant route to scoop up Phil Mickelson’s ball and threw it into the rough—it was awesome.”
While golfers will need to get in shape to withstand the rigors of the new game, less athletic pros will be able to compete thanks to the new rule that allows a caddy to defend their golfers’ balls. Said Mybeck, “By the fourth hole, golfers were figuring out their strategy. That’s when Phil called for his caddy to race ahead and throw a cross-body block on Tiger. From then on, they had their chemistry right, and Phil was able to make up time and win the match.”
Purists and senior golfers are up in arms over the new rules that will extend to amateurs at all public and private courses in 2012. But as an unnamed USGA spokesman said, “Golfers who can’t hack the new rules should consider bowling or croquet. Face it, golf is gone. Golfball is here, and it’s going to be huge.”