Iconic ref­eree John Paramor on slow play penal­ties, cheats on tour, and Seve’s ge­nius.

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view John Hug­gan Por­trait An­gus Mur­ray

The most recog­nis­able rules man on the planet re­flects on a life­time spent keep­ing hap­less and schem­ing golfers in check.

My dream as a young lad was to play the game,

but I found out early that I would never make enough money to do that. I had worked in a steel forge fac­tory in the West Mid­lands to fund my am­a­teur golf. I just wanted to play for a year on the am­a­teur cir­cuit. I was a one-hand­i­cap­per back then, a de­cent county stan­dard. And I did win the Mid­dle­sex Open and the Sur­rey Am­a­teur. But I was de­lud­ing my­self re­ally with thoughts of play­ing at a higher level.

Peter But­ler showed me how or­di­nary I was as a player.

I spent 1975 on tour as a cad­die and re­alised how good the guys were. I worked for Peter, a Ry­der Cup player. He was com­ing to the end of his ca­reer but he gave me a great ed­u­ca­tion. He played ev­ery prac­tice round with the same peo­ple: Neil Coles, Clive Clark and Bernard Hunt. I knew by the end of that sea­son what an or­di­nary player I re­ally was.

De­spite hav­ing no qual­i­fi­ca­tions, Ken Schofield gave me my break.

I’d played with Peter But­ler in the Sun­ning­dale Four­somes and he’d ar­ranged for me to have an in­ter­view with Ken Schofield at the Euro­pean Tour. So, I went along and Ken hired me de­spite my al­most com­plete lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions. All I had to offer was that I had played a bit of golf and I was as keen as mus­tard, but that was enough.

I started with the tour when I was 21 years and one day old.

My first job was to in­ter­view Peter Cowen about his re­cent win in the Zam­bian Open. But my ini­tial role was work­ing un­der Ge­orge O’Grady and Tony Gray, who were the tour­na­ment di­rec­tors. I was a sort of ju­nior of­fi­cial and it all just went on from there. All th­ese years later, I’m still learn­ing.

The Euro­pean Tour re­ally started to ex­plode at the end of the 1970s.

Much of that was down to Seve. The tour has so much to thank Seve for. I owe him my job re­ally. The suc­cess he had brought so much more at­ten­tion to the Euro­pean Tour and we had to be more pro­fes­sional to cope.

While we all make mis­takes, we have to keep them to a min­i­mum.

I’m very much like the duck on wa­ter. I do my best to look calm in a pres­sure sit­u­a­tion, but there’s a lot go­ing on un­der the sur­face you don’t see. I’m aware the next rul­ing could be my last. But hope­fully I’m pro­fes­sional enough to think things through care­fully be­fore an­swer­ing.

I would like play­ers to take more re­spon­si­bil­ity – but un­der­stand why they don’t.

It only takes one high-pro­file dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion to pro­voke a spate of ex­tra rul­ings be­ing called for. I have pro­duced a short in­struc­tional video to help that. We do have the abil­ity – if a player asks for what we deem to be a silly rul­ing – to re­quire that player to watch my video. But the bot­tom line is I want the mem­ber­ship to be con­fi­dent enough to pro­ceed with the sim­ple stuff. If they hit into a wa­ter haz­ard, they shouldn’t need a ref­eree, or if the ball is on a sprin­kler head or a cart path. That should all be straight­for­ward. I don’t mind be­ing called out, but I do won­der why I’m out there some­times.

The rules are the rules, end of.

There was an oc­ca­sion a player had to putt his ball off the green, then back onto the putting sur­face, to get it to the hole. But be­fore he hit, he re­paired a ball mark on the fringe. At first I thought that was a breach of Rule 13-2. But it wasn’t. He is al­lowed to re­pair a ball mark on the line of his putt. The prob­lem was, how­ever, that he could only do so when the mark is on the green. So, in the end, he was ac­tu­ally pe­nalised for touch­ing the line of his putt. I know that sounds harsh. There was no in­tent to gain ad­van­tage. But as soon as you have a rule framed – and you can only do so one way – you can’t start putting your own in­ter­pre­ta­tion on it. If you be­gin to ask ‘was that fair?’ the whole rule­book goes out of the win­dow.

The big­gest mis­take I ever made in­volved Si­mon Khan.

I re­gret it to this day. It was on the fi­nal day in Switzer­land in 2004 or 2005. There had been a change to a rule, one I had mis­in­ter­preted or at least mis­un­der­stood, and I in­cor­rectly dis­qual­i­fied him be­cause I reck­oned he had picked up a ball when he should not have done. I was gut­ted when I re­alised what I had done. I wrote to him say­ing how sorry I was. It was such a bad mo­ment for me. And Si­mon han­dled it beau­ti­fully. But I still get up­set when I think of it.

I have seen some­one cheat when I was play­ing,

but I have never seen it first-hand on tour. But it’s true we have had a few un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tions. A lot of play­ers get up­set about guys mark­ing balls on greens then re­plac­ing them in places they deem not quite right. In­vari­ably, they do noth­ing un­til the end of the round, which only makes them ac­cuser judge, jury and ex­e­cu­tioner in one. It would be bet­ter if they drew at­ten­tion to what­ever they see as soon as they see it.

I would not like to see sep­a­rate rules for pros and am­a­teurs.

We have gone slightly down that route with the groove is­sue, but the strength of our game is we all play by the same ba­sic rules. Cer­tainly, the equip­ment used by the pro­fes­sion­als is avail­able to any­one. What I’m not so sure about is that, be­cause the pros are so good, we are mak­ing tour cour­ses harder and harder to the point where they bear no re­sem­blance to the places am­a­teurs play. I’m not sure the viewer ap­pre­ci­ates how dif­fi­cult a tour course can be.

With course set ups, we have to be care­ful not to cross the line.

We are mind­ful we are cut­ting greens so tight in or­der to get them as firm and fast as we can. When you get close to the edge, you have to be aware that go­ing over the edge is pos­si­ble. And we have been ac­cused of that in the past. We want a cer­tain level of con­sis­tency. We want the greens as firm and fast as pos­si­ble. We want fair­ways nar­row while still giv­ing short and long hit­ters the same op­por­tu­nity. And while I ac­knowl­edge the crit­i­cism we maybe shouldn’t be do­ing that ev­ery week, I don’t think we do any­way. The tour goes all over the world, so we get a lot of change in terms of cour­ses, grasses and cul­tures.

Green books are de-skilling the game of golf.

I re­cently asked Phil Mick­el­son what he thought about the green books you see peo­ple us­ing when putting. He said he felt they’re a good thing be­cause they’re good for pace of play and clear up a lot of ques­tions a player might have. That’s all valid. But I think they are a de-skilling of the game. Part of this game is mak­ing your own judge­ment about how your ball is go­ing to roll across a green. It’s not for you to find that out on a piece of pa­per.

The pro­vi­sional ball is the one rule re­vi­sion I’d like to see.

Some of the pow­ers-that-be don’t quite agree with me on this but I’d like to see any ‘sec­ond ball’ hit by a player be deemed a pro­vi­sional un­less he or she states oth­er­wise. Which is ex­actly the op­po­site of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. A ball is only a pro­vi­sional when you say it is.

Some rules could be con­sid­ered dra­co­nian.

We had an in­ci­dent last year dur­ing the Dun­hill Links with David How­ell, chair­man of the Euro­pean Tour tour­na­ment com­mit­tee. Un­for­tu­nately, the tee-mark­ers on one hole had been placed end-on-end, the am­a­teur tee right next to the pro tee. On most holes they are some yards apart. But this was an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen and David in­ad­ver­tently teed-up on the am­a­teur side of the mark­ers. It was pointed out to him right af­ter he hit. He called for a rul­ing and the ref­eree told him to play again from the right mark­ers, which were six inches back and add two shots to his score. He was fine with that, but asked me about it the next day.

He was won­der­ing whether two shots was the ap­pro­pri­ate penalty. It does seem harsh. One-shot is a steep enough learn­ing curve; two-shots is a bit dra­co­nian.

The new rules are get­ting closer to where they should be.

It’s ex­cit­ing, but some of it is go­ing to be tricky for me. Some of the more tra­di­tional phrases are go­ing to be changed. For ex­am­ple, ‘un­due de­lay’ is go­ing to be­come ‘un­rea­son­able de­lay’. Not a huge change, but one that makes more sense. We are some way from tak­ing cards out of the player’s hands though. It has been talked about. But there is still a be­lief the only way for a player to con­firm his score is some writ­ten ev­i­dence. Cur­rently that ev­i­dence is pre­pared by his play­ing part­ner, then signed by both.

Out of bounds will al­ways be a tricky one.

I see the in­equity in the ar­gu­ment that the player who misses the ball is play­ing two off the tee and the guy who hits it 300 yard and one-inch out-of-bounds is play­ing three. But the real prize is to not have the player hit again. We need an an­swer to that prob­lem. We need to stop peo­ple hav­ing to walk back­wards. Which is time con­sum­ing.

There are some pro­pos­als on the ta­ble and I am in favour. But it would take a great leap of faith for many peo­ple, in­clud­ing me. I am a great tra­di­tion­al­ist at heart. But this is such a prize, it is worth putting my tra­di­tion­al­ist views to one side be­cause this would be so pos­i­tive. It could be ‘two off the tee’. But it could also in­volve es­ti­mat­ing where a ball is lost and play­ing on with­out go­ing back to where the pre­vi­ous shot was struck. In­stead, it would be to drop a ball in the area, with an ap­pro­pri­ate penalty. That penalty would have to be two shots, given that you are not hav­ing to walk back. And there would have to be some agree­ment be­tween player and part­ner. So it would be quite harsh. And of course you could still play a pro­vi­sional ball from the tee if you were still there. But that in­volves tak­ing a chance. If you found the orig­i­nal you wouldn’t be able to go back­wards.

Guan Tian­lang’s in­fa­mous slow-play penalty at Au­gusta in 2013 was a tough one.

I tried very hard to tell him what was go­ing to hap­pen if he did not speed up. But he backed me into a cor­ner. I gave him so many chances. But in the end I had no choice [he re­ceived a one-stroke penalty]. I know peo­ple won­der aloud why I ‘don’t give penal­ties to the pros’. But I do. If a player ever had a sec­ond bad time I would. But the pros know the sys­tem. They know that, af­ter one bad time, they can’t de­lay their play. They all play quickly af­ter that.

The Euro­pean Tour have a fine struc­ture that kicks in af­ter the sec­ond bad time of the year – and many play­ers have fallen foul of it this year.

The big test will come at next year’s Aus­trian Open, where ev­ery­one will be on the clock for ev­ery shot. We won’t set-up the course as dif­fi­cult as we have in the past. The fair­ways will be wider. The rough won’t be as deep. The pin po­si­tions won’t be as tight. We could have a very low score win­ning. And hope­fully quickly. Or should I say, ‘less slowly’ (laughs).

I’m very lucky.

I am aware that I have one of the most sought-af­ter jobs on the planet. I’ve been given a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity and I love what I do now. I get the best view of the best golfers in the world and, best of all, I don’t miss cuts. The only down­side is the travel. I’ve missed a lot of birthdays, an­niver­saries and wed­dings over the years. But those sorts of in­vi­ta­tions dry up even­tu­ally; peo­ple know I’m un­likely to be able to go. And my games of golf are few and far be­tween. So it’s not a nor­mal life.

A quiet word with Jor­dan Spi­eth in Abu Dhabi. Graeme Storm checks his op­tions at Crans-sur-Sierre.

Paramor’s ap­proach en­sures an ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship with the play­ers on tour. Ian Woos­nam re­veals he has too many clubs at the 2001 Open.

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