Dawson calls for more transparency on fines
One of golf's most influential voices is calling for more transparency in disciplinary procedures when players step out of line.
Chief Executive of the Royal and Ancient, Peter Dawson, believes the leading tours should consider publishing details of punishments handed out to golfers for breaches of disciplinary codes.
At the moment the European Tour and in particular the PGA Tour do not routinely allow into the public domain information regarding fines or bans they have imposed.
Tiger Woods was fined for spitting at this year's Dubai Desert Classic but the decision to issue a statement to announce that he had been punished was only made because of the publicity the incident had already generated.
Speaking at the launch of the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Dawson told BBC Sport: "I think golf can still be held up as a model for many other sports to follow in terms of player behaviour at every level. Incidents do get a lot of publicity and rightly so. That's indicative that it is exceptional in golf to see these things.
Dawson expects a host of young Europeans to challenge in this year's Open. Photo: PA
"In terms of what Tour disciplinary policies should be and whether disciplinary action should be made public I think if you look at the wider world of sport that has become the norm.
"I think keeping it quiet, whilst there are many good reasons for doing that at tour level, is probably something that tours should look at changing because I do think that keeping these things in the public domain has a lot of benefit in keeping our standards of behaviour high," Dawson said.
Tours are reluctant to give the oxygen of publicity to unsavoury incidents in professional events because golf's squeaky clean image is one of the game's biggest calling cards in attracting sponsors.
Fines, though, offer little deterrent to multi-millionaire offenders,especially if they do not suffer any of the embarrassment that goes with being named and shamed.
Dawson's comments will make interesting reading at PGA Tour HQ which remains notoriously silent on disciplinary matters.
A year ago it took the publication of court papers to reveal that in his career John Daly had been suspended five times, fined more than $100,000, cited 11 times for conduct unbecoming a professional and on 21 occasions for not trying.
That's considerable dirt to sweep under a Ponte Vedra Beach carpet and is admittedly at the extreme end of golf's disciplinary scale.
Whether the tours heed Dawson's call remains to be seen but his comments have put the matter on the agenda and are welcome news for those who believe golf does itself a disservice with its current lack of transparency.
The R & A boss was speaking on the day that it was revealed Royal St George's will play 105 yards longer than it did for the 2003 Open won by Ben Curtis. It will also play as a par 70 rather than 71 as the fourth has been reclassified as a par four.
Subtle changes have been implemented, including widening the fairways on the first, 17th and 18th holes. Less than 30% of players hit those fairways eight years ago and Woods infamously lost his opening drive in the rough down the right of the hole.
Regardless of the widening of these fairways it is hard to envisage a repeat of that sort of start this summer.
The exceptionally dry spell has left only sparse rough and officials admit they want to see more growth.
"We'd all like to see a bit of rain some time soon," Dawson confirmed.
This will be the first Open in 33 years without the organisational influence of David Hill, who unexpectedly announced his retirement from the post of Director of Championships only last month.
As a result Dawson will take a more hands-on role for an Open he hopes will showcase the exceptional level of UK talent in the game at the moment.
"It's wonderful to see that so many of those young players coming through and featuring at the top of the world rankings are from the UK and Europe," he said.
"I think this is causing local interest in our country to grow in the game and I think we are going to see some huge interest in this year's championship. There are so many stories, aren't there?"
Dawson made special mention of last Sunday's Malaysian Open Champion Matteo Manassero, who has only just celebrated his 18th birthday, as a reason for excitement at the 2011 Open.
The emergence of the Italian teenager is further evidence of a generational change in the world game that Dawson believes is now in full swing.
"Yeah, things are changing. Tiger's not as dominant as he was although he began to look pretty good at the Masters.
"These guys who have been dominating the game are all well into their 30s and in some cases into their 40s now and it is natural the younger players will come through. Like every sport it seems players are getting better younger.
"I think Manassero's achievement in winning two European Tour events before turning 18 is pretty astonishing and although Rory McIlroy seems to have been around for a while, he's still only 21."
Already this year we have witnessed the most exciting Masters in recent memory and there is every reason to suppose the third week of July can serve up a similarly thrilling major on the Kent coast.
Eight years ago 182,500 people turned up to watch and with improved rail links from London and the genuine prospect of European success there is every chance of those numbers being topped in 2011.
Golf has plenty going for it right now, enough for it to feel confident to follow Dawson's call to proudly show off its wares - warts and all.