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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The New Video Protocols

In case you missed it, on Monday the USGA and R&A finally released their new "video protocols" for dealing with -- let's be blunt here -- TV viewers calling in to report rule infractions. Here's your quick guide to what's involved.

First, here are the USGA video protocols page and the R&A video protocols page. And here is the link to the brief video clip (embedded below) from Morning Drive announcing those protocols:



Now, the short version is this:
  • One or more officials will watch the broadcast to monitor possible rules violations.
  • Nobody is going to take phone calls reporting said violations. (At least, that's what it sounds like.)
  • The only video that will be accepted is the broadcast video. No phone or camera videos.
  • And a local rule eliminating the two-stroke incorrect scorecard penalty will be enacted as a bridge to the 2019 official rule.
Sweet, simple and to the point. The language is a bit wordier than that, but that's the gist of it.

The page with the Morning Drive video also has a number of other videos related to the issue, since quite a lot of time was devoted to it. Even Thomas Pagel spent considerable time answering questions.

I see a couple of potential issues that might have to be dealt with as this protocol goes into effect in January:
  • First, I suspect the monitoring officials may end up being stationed in the broadcast trucks to better monitor all of the network cameras, in an effort to catch potential problems as soon as possible. If so, there will almost certainly always be more than one official on duty. Even if you only watch a single TV showing the broadcast, you don't want anybody getting distracted for a moment and missing the very thing they're looking for!
  • And second, I'm under the impression that any person physically at the event -- players, caddies or fans -- will be able to report things they see to the officials. If so, they may have to rethink the camera/phone video ban since that would provide instant feedback about the legitimacy of the report.
Having said that -- and knowing that every new protocol generally needs some tweaking -- this is a major step forward. Pagel said that their feedback from the pros had been mostly favorable and that the pros were in favor of infractions being reported and penalties enforced, even if those penalties had to be enforced in a later round. It's that extra two-stroke incorrect scorecard penalty that most of them found to be unacceptable.

For those of you who are afraid that some penalties will be missed, let me just say this... they will. Even in sports where the events happen on a relatively small playing field -- like a basketball court or a football field -- infractions are not only missed in real time but even in the replay reviews. Because we are human, there is NO WAY that all the infractions will be caught or even properly dealt with, and we'll just have to accept that. We'll just have to do our best and accept the results.

And once any little bugs have been worked out, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised at how well it's going to work simply because our sport is unusual in that most of us want the correct ruling to be made, even if it goes against us. As Lexi Thompson tweeted regarding the new rule, "I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future."

All I can say is "amen to that."

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