Tackling the Bobby Jones debate

1/13/2011 - Golf Tiger Woods Jack Nicklaus + more

Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.

Question: When the greatest golfer of all time is discussed, it always comes down to Jack or Tiger. What about Bobby Jones? Looking at what he accomplished by the time he retired at 28 -- seems his record may be more impressive than either Jack or Tiger. Even though Jim Brown retired early, he is always in the topic of conversation for greatest football player of all time. Sandy Koufax is also mentioned as one of the greatest pitchers of all time even though he retired at an early age -- why no love for Bobby Jones?

-- Edward Virgona

Harig: True, Jones should not be dismissed, and many do hold him in high regard for his accomplishments by age 28. One issue, however, is the difficulty in comparing eras. As an amateur, Jones could not play in the PGA Championship -- nor could professionals play in the U.S. Amateur or British Amateur, although it could be argued that there were just as many top amateurs in the 1920s as there were pros. If you include his amateur titles, he does rank third all time in majors behind Nicklaus (20) and Woods (17) with 13. Take away the amateur titles -- as most do today -- and he is still tied for seventh with seven majors -- four U.S. Opens, three British Opens.

Question: Will Sergio Garcia play full time this year?
-- Terrie Black

Harig: He is expected to. Garcia took a two-month break after the PGA last year as he had just one top-10 finish in 15 PGA Tour starts. He returned to play three European Tour events, including the Dubai World Championship, where he finished 21st. It is unclear when Garcia will begin his 2011 season.

Question: How could [the PGA Tour] get ahead of the curve and market its product (players) in Asia? The European Tour has done a nice job in recent years of doing that in Middle East and China, two hot beds of new golf markets. How could [the PGA Tour] get its foot in the door? They are doing that Malaysia tournament. But I believe they need to get in now before Europe takes hold in these parts of the world. The future of golf is global. How does (commissioner) Finchem convince Tiger and Phil and the rank and file to help it grow worldwide before it's too late?
-- Wendal Wang

Harig: The Malaysia event, called the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, is the PGA Tour's way of getting its foot in the door. The event is on the schedule again this year, followed by the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour. The PGA Tour undoubtedly recognizes the potential for growth in these areas, but at what cost? Do you scrap domestic events to do this? There is a full schedule of tournaments in the United States, plus plenty of areas that would love to have them.

Question: Our youngest son played competitive junior golf. He is currently [in his] late 20s, and has a low single digit handicap. Okay, so what??

While playing at the Optimist International during his high school career, he was DQ'd at the event for signing an incorrect scorecard. As you may be aware, the Optimist is a major junior event. I believe both Tiger Woods and Davis Love III won the event in their respective junior careers.

My son recorded a 12 on a par 3 (I believe it is part of the "Bear Trap" at PGA National). He actually scored a 13 on the hole and in the confusion of the situation, he inadvertently recorded a 12. He and the rules official both counted the strokes upon leaving the green. He and I reviewed the situation in the hotel room after the round, and we realized he had recorded the wrong score and signed an incorrect scorecard. He returned to the scorer's table and informed them of the situation and was DQ'd.

So what's the point? He was effectively out of the event, what would it matter if he finished the event? No one would have known and no one would have cared or blamed us or him if we had just let it go.

Well, it was probably the best life lesson for him and me. The Rules of Golf, at least for my son and me, set a standard of behavior. At the end of the day, he and I can always look back and know we did the right thing. Our son has gone on to finish his undergraduate degree as well as his MBA. And I can tell you, he and I both check our work a little more closely, pay closer attention detail in most situations… I think you get my drift.

Granted, we all fail as human beings, and we do make mistakes, and we do not always dot all the i's and cross all the t's. But, integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching. And in today's environment, integrity and doing the right thing are not always in abundance. Don't get me wrong, I have conceded and been conceded more than my share of four foot putts. But in an official competitive event, you abide by the rules. Too bad, if the rules are inconvenient for the media, or if the rules seem "unfair" ex post.

My point is this, we can all look at certain rules or standards of tradition as arcane and not relevant in our world today, but [Camilo] Villegas has played by these rules for some time. I actually first watched him play at the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. He would have been DQ'd there, and nobody would have given it a second thought.
-- Tom Zacharias

Harig: Rules issues in golf evoke all manner of reactions, including the feeling from many that there is nothing wrong with the way things are handled now. Still, there is a good amount of confusion, and with walking scorers and electronic scoring in the professional game, it does seem at times as though the scorecard is outdated, although the bottom line seems to be that if a player knows the rules and simply asks the appropriate questions, all manner of problems can be avoided.

Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see if it gets used next week.