- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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WHITHER THE FIGHT?
Back in 1860, when England's Tom Sayers fought John Camel Heenan for the championship belt, prizefighting was illegal. Blindly faithful fans boarded a London train, not knowing where the fight was to be held until the train stopped beside a lonely field and the cry was "Everyone off!"
The way things were going last week, it looked as if Cassius Clay and Ernie Terrell might have to rent a train of their own and start cruising the countryside. They had the date, March 29, but until Toronto timidly volunteered they were running out of countries, states, cities, yea, even suburbs (their most painful defeat was at Verdun, Que., where the mayor told them to shoo).
While everyone was running around looking, Clay himself flourished an official-looking envelope on which was printed, "Passport to the Moon." Said Cassius: "Looks like we're going to have to go to the moon to fight, because no place on earth wants us. We'll just go up there and fight it out and the one that wins will get to take the spaceship and come back."
The payoff, presumably, would be in moonshine.
When tournament leader Doug Sanders was disqualified from the Pensacola Open for failing to sign his scorecard last Saturday the immediate reaction was that the rule is absurd, the punishment is preposterous and the law is an ass.
The disqualification was certainly regrettable. Sanders, the defending champion, was the favorite of the Pensacola galleries and his ousting over a seemingly unimportant rule substantially hurt the tournament. But what may be more meaningful in the long view is the behind-the-scenes implications of the PGA's handling of the incident. Long an indecisive body, the PGA—in the person of its tournament supervisor, Jack Tuthill—suddenly chose to shun the easy way out of an awkward situation. At the Tucson Open on February 17 Tuthill had posted a notice warning competitors that the Rules of Golf require them to sign their scorecards before turning them in to the official score-keeper. It said that in past years PGA officials had recalled players from putting greens, locker rooms and other such places for after-the-fact illegal signings. "The obligation under the rules rests with the competitor and henceforth the officials will not search out a competitor for noncompliance," said the bulletin—plain enough.
At Pensacola two weeks later, with tournament sponsors pleading for him to relent, Tuthill, a former FBI agent, found himself faced with enforcing the rule. It is significant that he did not hesitate or back down when Governor Hay-don Burns of Florida angrily called the decision a "disaster."
The rule is there for a purpose—to make sure a player accepts the responsibility for the score he turns in. Tuthill was both courageous and correct.