Ethics Madness On The Golf Course

I saw this story four days ago, and talked myself out of posting about it because I decided there had to be something I was missing and I didn’t feel like spending time researching pro golf, since I find golf so boring.But I couldn’t help myself, and kept reading articles, and now I’m convinced. This was wrong. And it was nuts. (Yeah, I’m pretty sick of the “Madness!” clip from the last seconds of “The Bridge Over The River Kwai” too—that’s James Donald, incidentally. I’m more sick of the apparently endless stream of incidents in The Great Stupid that prompt it.)

Golf pro Jon Rahm crushing the field in the PGA’s Memorial Tournament; indeed, he was on the way to a possible course record He had a six-stroke lead, and was 18 under par. Only golf legend Ben Hogan has done as well on that course in the tournament’s history. I had never heard of Rahm (though I will now know him as “that poor bastard), but he’s apparently the #3 ranked golfer in the world. That rating would have risen, and as would his bank account, when he won the nearly 1.7 million dollar prize money.

Right in the end of a round, however, on international TV, Rahm was told that he had been disqualified. The tournament’s medical adviser walked up to himafter he had played his final shot and gave him the news that he had tested positive for the Wuhan virus. Rahm had been undergoing daily tests after discovering before the tournament that he had come into close contact with someone who had tested positive.  Each of his previous tests had come back negative, but the positive test, once it was verified, was viewed as disqualifying. He took it, well, like a prole and a devotee of Vox. He tweeted,

“I’m very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament. This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people. I’m very thankful that my family and I are all OK. I will take all of the necessary precautions to be safe and healthy, and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible.”

I might have defined myself by tweeting (if I hadn’t banned Twitter from my life),

“This decision by the tournament is hysterical and unjustified. There is no logical or medical reason why I should not be allowed to complete the tournament. I have breached no rules, I feel fine, and safety precautions for everyone else, including spectators, are easily implemented. The decision to remove me from the tournament is a betrayal of golf’s fans and cruel punishment for me, when I have done nothing wrong.”

I assumed some document that Rahm had committed to allowed this to happen; I hope so, because it he hadn’t agreed in advance, he would be a fool to accept his disqualification (and the loss of 1.7 million dollars he was on the way to winning.) That document was, I assume, the “PGA’s Tour Covid’s Health and Safety Plan, which I bet hadn’t been review or updated. Maybe they ran it by Dr. Fauci, who checked with China or flipped a coin. The PGA’s statement:

PGA statement

Oh, well that’s OK then, since the PGA has only inflicted their pandemic panic rules once.

Golf is played outside. Keeping everyone a safe distance from him would have been easy. He posed no realistic danger to anyone. His caddy, if he hadn’t been vaccinated, could have laid Rahm’s clubs in the grass, or the golfer could have carried his own bag. His two playing partners, who had both previously had the virus, said they weren’t concerned. There was no reason not to allow him to finish.

I’m beginning to think that the pandemic has inflicted a sort of closed head injury on much of society, leading to confusion and decisions that are irrational. One amazing feature of this example is that there was almost no sports commentary in which a sportswriter reacted, “Wait, what? That’s ridiculous!” Nor can I find a sports ethicist who reacted, “Wait, what? That’s incompetent, unfair, irresponsible and gratuitously cruel!”

But it was.

10 thoughts on “Ethics Madness On The Golf Course

  1. Thoughts on the ethics of informing him of his medical situation on television?

    Also, what are the implications if it turns out to have been a false positive test?

  2. Even though this was a tournament, golf is in essence the player against himself, their score for the rounds played. A tournament is merely an event where the scores of the all entrants are compared and rewarded with stakes for the best scores. Why they could not have arranged for him to play the remaining holes with a greater amount of distance between him an all others involved is meatheadery in all its short-sighted ignominy.

  3. “I’m beginning to think that the pandemic has inflicted a sort of closed head injury on much of society, leading to confusion and decisions that are irrational.”

    When a dangerous situation is catastrophized and used to induce panic, that tends to happen. NJ has lifted the mask requirement, but most private businesses are keeping it in place. Everyone is afraid to take even the slightest chance. PA is less stringent, in fact this past weekend, at an airshow/WW2 event in Reading, almost no one was masked up (it kind of destroys the look of a reenactor), and the local authorities said they were not interested in enforcing the mandate. However, everyone I mentioned the event to was like “I hope this doesn’t turn into a superspreader event.” I’ve been vaccinated since April, and that’s all I can do. Either it works or it doesn’t. If it does, I don’t need to hide behind a mask. If it doesn’t, then a mask won’t save me.

    • That’s my thinking, too. Either the vaccine works or it doesn’t. There’s only one way to find out. We field tested it at a family gathering about a month ago. Some were masked; some were not. Some were vaccinated; some were not. We were in a tiny crowded church with a bunch of people we didn’t know.

      Our clearance period has passed without incident, so, as far as we are concerned, we’re done with it. We’ll wear masks any place that requests it, but we’re not doing like my fully-vaccinated sister is and refusing to attend even a hypothetical summer gathering if there’s a possibility someone unvaccinated and unmasked is going to be there.

      It’s time to live again.

      • About a month ago, we had a party at our house, attended by mostly younger adults (20s-30s, plus a few young children). Only a very few wore masks. Wife and I were both vaccinated (Pfizer’s); we didn’t wear masks.

        A week after the party, she and I both came down with colds. It was the first cold I had had in 3 years. (I’m still recovering.) You bet I was nervous about that; all I could think after the initial symptoms hit, was (sarcastically), “Yep, that’s why they call me Lucky.” Also why they call me Eeyore: I was sure that I was the “lucky” guy whose vaccine didn’t work, and my “cold” was the beginning of the end for me.

        But, after two days, the cold stayed in my head. Virtually none of the cold moved into my throat or chest, at any time. I put off going to get tested for the virus. That was my decision, and I would not have regretted putting off the test, even if it did turn out positive and even if I did die from COVID as a result of intervention too late.

        It’s a blessing to be Lucky. I agree: it’s time to live again. Damn the risks.

  4. It was “a real downer” (disappointment) to see Rahm disqualified after 3 rounds. He even had hit a hole-in-one in Round 3. The tournament still had a dramatic conclusion, with a one-hole playoff determining the winner. What a nice break for those two top finishers, in terms of prize money. I think Rahm showed a lot of class with his exit; I can only hope he has the character to bounce back and win with a vengeance in future tournaments. Meanwhile…I am still in disbelief that Tiger Woods didn’t have someone doing his driving for him (I do mean driving a car, not a golf ball).

    • I stopped watching golf for many reasons. I was an avid fan. Seeing players last year carrying their bags in front of no spectators turned me off completely. What a bunch of babies.

      I will say John Rahm seems to be a really outstanding human being. I would not dare to mock him for his reaction or his “apology.” He’s a straight shooter, a heck of a golfer, and I think, a really, really nice kid. He also played at ASU so I guess I feel a little on his side because he was a local during that time in his life. A win is a win but these guys clear tens of millions of dollars a year in endorsements and prize money. The Tour is a closed shop and the players are simply employees. They do what they’re told. None of them rock the gilt boat they’re in. There’s no chance in hell he’ll sue the Tour. The defense would ultimately be he still had the fourth round to play. There’s no reason to believe he would have won.

      But, in any event, adios pro golf.

  5. And he’s a Spaniard and would make a perfect Sancho Panza. I bet he can even sing. He’s got a sense of humor and is a bit of ham.

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