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The difference between winning, losing

HAL LENOBEL
Contributing Columnist
golf@lbknews.com

Recently, both Ryder Cup captains had a tough time. Davis Love III had to forego the tournament at Harbour Town because of a cracked rib. He had participated at that event every spring since 1986.

Meanwhile European Captain Jose Maria Olazabel was stopped April 9 for speeding on a rural Georgia highway between Augusta and Hilton Head. He was cited for going 97 mph in a 65 mph zone. The two-time Masters champion was escorted to a local police station because he is a foreign national. He had to pay a $621 fine. Just to make matters worse, Olazabel then shot 77-73 at Hilton Head and missed the cut.

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Bubba Watson has suddenly become the media’s favorite. He toured New York and his willingness to talk about everything has made him golf’s most visible player.

“The future is very exciting,” said Paul Galli, founder of Pro-Sport Management, which represents Watson. “There are some wonderful opportunities in front of him.

“You don’t necessarily see the benefit in the first couple of weeks but I can tell you this: we are getting many, many requests for him to play in tournaments internationally.”

Watson already has an impressive collection of associations and endorsements with companies inside and outside the golf industry. This in addition to the companies he already has in his pocket. They are Titleist, Motorola, EASports, Richard Mille watches, Schuco solar paneling, Upper Deck trading cards and Marquis Jet.

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A few weeks ago at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship a rule came into play with Rory McIlroy involved. McIlroy brushed away sand from his line of putt during the second round. McIlroy was playing in the same group with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. Donald quickly pointed out Rory’s error. He said, “I don’t think you can do that.” McIlroy answered, “I can’t, can I? I wasn’t thinking clearly and just made a very stupid mental mistake.”

Rule 13-2 prohibits improving one’s line of play by moving sand, unless the sand is located on the putting green, where it is deemed a loose impediment. The error cost McIlroy a share of the midway lead. Sunday, he would finish one shot behind winner Robert Rock.

It is amazing how many players get tangled up in the simplest of rules. The pros should know better. Pros will spend eight hours a day hitting balls, but won’t take 15 minutes to read the laws that govern their game. Fifteen minutes a week over the course of a season would make them pretty knowledgeable.

As European Tour chief referee John Paramor once said, “Even if these guys learned the definitions it would be a big help.”

Rules are there to help. Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam all had and still have a deep understanding for the rules, and in some instances, could use them to their advantage. Too bad more of today’s tour pros don’t follow suit. As happened in Abu Dhabi, it could mean the difference between winning and losing.

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