Golf, like all sports, has had its fair share of controversies, both on the course and off. Some of these have passed without long-term consequences while others have come and gone like a rogue wave – significant enough to tarnish both players and the sport at large.
We’ve taken a look at a few of the most well-known controversies in the world of golf.
On The Course
Jane Blalock – an elusive two-stroke penalty
(Barbara) Jane Blalock was a well-respected professional golfer in the late 1960s and 1970s, but despite an impressive career many associate her with an unfortunate incident at the 1972 Bluegrass Invitational. Blalock was accused of signing an incorrect scorecard after moving her ball away from the mark on the 17th hole.
Her failure to apply the appropriate two-stroke penalty cost her dearly: she was disqualified and slapped with a year suspension from the LPGA Tour. Luckily for Blalock, her subsequent lawsuit against the LPGA succeeded and she went on to win many tournaments until her retirement in 1987.
Lexi Thompson – caught on camera
At the 2017 ANA Inspiration tournament Lexi Thompson picked up a four-shot penalty for failing to place her ball correctly on the 17th hole. The problem? The infraction was called in by a TV viewer – not unheard of, but an odd rule that has been heavily criticised – and cost her the tournament.
And Off The Course
Tiger Woods – cheating of a different kind
Tiger Woods, one of golf’s most beloved stars, has dealt with his fair share of drama, mostly off the course. After he crashed his SUV into a neighbour’s garden in the early hours of the morning, details of infidelities began to emerge.
This episode of careless driving (as labelled by Florida Highway Patrol) unearthed a litany of scandalous affairs with numerous women over the course of his marriage. He subsequently got dropped by many of his sponsors, got divorced, and never regained his number-one status. A second, unrelated car crash in February 2021 left Woods badly injured – and once again in the press’s bad books, this time for speeding.
Phil Mickelson – sportswashing and Saudi Arabia
Phil Mickelson, another big name in golfing, has rightfully been lauded for his various accomplishments on the course. More recently, however, the spotlight has been shone on him for a less honorable reason.
LIV Golf, funded by Saudi Arabia, has come under fire from human rights activists who see it as a case of “sportswashing” – an attempt by the country to salvage their image on the world stage. Phil Mickelson managed to tangle himself in the LIV Golf debacle by remarking that Saudis are “scary [expletive] to be involved with” – and then going on to sign a $200 million contract to participate in the very same tournament. He is currently one of 17 golfers suspended by the PGA Tour.
It is hoped that golf professionals will rise about scandals such as these and instead focus on improving their skills – and bringing joy like NZ betting sites do to fans around the globe.