If you are one of those people who believes it is only right and proper that the US PGA rulebook should trump all documents, including the US constitution, then you will be delighted by reports that Lee Westwood's recent tweetathon is likely to earn him an automatic fine of several thousand dollars.
If you missed it, Westwood celebrated buggering up the last day of Sunday's US PGA Championship at Oak Hill with a small-hours takedown of various Twitter users who had been inviting him to learn to putt and so on. I say "takedown", although part of Westwood's strategy did involve approvingly retweeting those who opined that "he earned more in the last four days than most will this year", as well as those who imagined that "have you seen what's parked in my garage?" counts as an edifying counter-argument.
Still, that is by the bye. Westwood did not say anything racist or sexist or homophobic or threatening, or any of the other things that might reasonably invoke the censure of any authority. He did not insult those we might class as his employers. He was just a disappointed guy who could not sleep, and hey – sometimes we all feel like that. Right, kids? By the next day, for whatever reason, Westwood felt moved to say sorry, declaring: "My sincere apologies to my sponsors and true followers for my earlier comments. It was out of order and out of character."
Of far greater importance, though, is whether it will leave him out of pocket. Will the PGA fine him, as it is widely claimed? We shall not know from its side, of course, because the PGA absolutely refuses to discuss the myriad disciplinary fines it does or does not impose on any players, which have been administered for reasons ranging from quite understandable on-course breaches to speaking profanely to a PGA answerphone (that one was handed down to Paul Goydos in the late 90s). Fines it has intriguingly opted not to administer range from criticising officials to incidents of racism. Anyway, we will get to them in a minute.
Why does golf insist upon this secrecy, when most other sports long ago embraced far greater transparency on disciplinary matters? The PGA commissioner Tim Finchem once said of the clubby omerta: "I think one of our strengths as a tour is that the public thinks of our players as gentlemen", adding that it was not coincidental that "92% of Americans think our players are role models".
Hmmm. As it goes, 92% of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit, 92% of Americans believe themselves to be middle class and 93% of Americans believed it likely that Iraq possessed WMD facilities, despite the evidence to the contrary. So, you know … it is not always the gold standard. Either way, if golf does not trust its public to know the truth, then its public is entitled to speculate. We might surmise the PGA cannot bear to have its sense of proportion – or otherwise – laid bare. Just consider what the fines imposed by football's governing bodies have told us about the game's moral relativism.
We know that Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 for showing his sponsored pants, while Porto were fined £16,500 for monkey chants fans directed at Mario Balotelli. We know that Cameroon were fined £86,000 for playing in the wrong kit, while the Spanish FA was relieved of £44,750 when racist chants rained down on England players. A couple of months ago, Fifa finally proposed much tougher sanctions for dealing with racism, and you have to think that they were in part embarrassed into the move by the troubling moral inconsistencies the transparency has repeatedly highlighted in recent years.
Might the sport that the golfing authorities claim to safeguard not benefit from a similar era of glasnost? It certainly did not benefit from the European tour's failure to fine Sergio García for what could be interpreted as a racist "fried chicken" comment directed at Tiger Woods earlier this year. All the blazers would say was that they had accepted his apology and "consider the matter closed". Actually, hang on – that wasn't strictly all they said: the European Tour CEO, George O'Grady, did stress that "most of Sergio's friends are coloured athletes".
Other non-fines? A technicality declares a player is responsible for his caddie's actions but Adam Scott was not fined when his man Steve Williams – former bag carrier for Woods – announced to an awards ceremony audience that he was glad Scott had won an event because he wanted "to shove it right up that black asshole".
As for the more recherché corners of golf's moral universe, we have no clue what price the PGA placed on Woods's cocktail waitress habit. Perhaps they did not invoice on the basis it was sex addiction – which, as Chazz Michael Michaels once reminded us, is "a real disease, with doctors and medicine and everything". Or perhaps they genuinely deemed it "conduct unbecoming a professional" and thus a breach of the PGA Tour players' handbook, when it clearly has naff all to do with them. Perhaps Woods really is, as rumour has it, the most fined player on the tour.
How long golf thinks it can remain inscrutable is unclear. But if Westwood wishes to atone for his rather disappointing suggestions that reference to personal wealth constitutes the plank of an argument, then perhaps he might perform a public service and disclose what sum the PGA eventually relieve him of for the transgression. Golf fans deserve information about how their sport is run, even if the bigwigs do not wish them to have it.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Eugene Goh