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Scoring“Excuse me Mr. James, but we are going to have to disqualify you from the last game and also give the victory to the Spurs because you didn’t score 42 points last night, but instead only had 41. And since you signed for 42 points………………well, you understand.”

Yeah, that would really fly well.

Imagine Usain Bolt being disqualified from the 100 meters dash in the Olympics because he signed a card that said he ran in 9.7 seconds when in fact his time was 9.8? Ridiculous, right? Athletes are not required to also be statisticians or scorekeepers. Sure, basketball players usually know how many points, assists and rebounds they have in a game, but they are not required to keep track. There are people hired to do that.

In baseball the guy who scores a run is not then responsible for going to the dugout and recording it in the scorebook. They have an official scorer for that. Golf is the only sport that requires the competitors to not only compete but keep score and if they make a mistake they either get disqualified (for posting a score lower than it actually was) or live with it (if they post a score higher than it was).

The most famous case of the latter came in the 1968 Masters when Argentina’s Robert DeVicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard and lost to Bob Golby by one shot. DeVicenzo recorded a birdie on the 17th hole of the final round, but his playing partner, Tommy Aaron (players keep each other’s scores) wrote down a four on the card and DeVicenzo didn’t catch the mistake and signed it.

Instead of a playoff Golby got the green jacket (along with an asterisk for life) and DeVicenzo was left remembering his 45th birthday with the now infamous quote, “What a stupid I am.”

No, what a stupid rule this is.

Here it is: “The scores shall be kept by a special marker or by the competitors noting each other’s scores. The scores marked shall be checked after each hole. On the completion of the round, the score of the competitor shall be signed by the marker, counter-signed by the competitor and handed to the Secretary or his deputy after which, unless it is found that a car returned shows a score below that actually played (in which case the competitor shall be disqualified), no correction or alteration can be made.”

Okay, I get it. I understand the need for it back in 1899 when the rule was written. Often the only people around were the players and their caddies. It was a necessity. I’ll keep your score. You keep mine and we sign both cards at the end. And when you are playing in your state amateur or public links or even club tournaments it’s still necessary. But not on the PGA Tour or in USGA events where there are officials walking with each group and keeping score. Not when there is the technology that is available today. There’s no need for players to be responsible for keeping track of their own score. It’d be like forcing astronauts to wear parachutes because that’s what pilots always wore.

Players should be able to play their 18 holes and then go and relax (or in Tiger and Phil’s case, go talk to the media). They should not have to go inside a trailer and do arithmetic. Not any more. It’s a waste of their time and energy when everyone already knows what score they posted. Fortunately the DeVicenzo fiasco remains the only one of its kind in major championship history and seldom do players sign an incorrect scorecard. The point is, they shouldn’t have to keep score. They only need to hit golf shots.

(Tim Geary is a R.I. Based freelance writer. He often needs several hours to count up all of his shots).

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