If the essence of your art is to poke fun at pomposity then there could scarcely be a more inviting target.
"A teacup waiting for a storm to happen," is how one observer once described the sport. And there is something wonderfully recondite about those periodic squalls that blow through golf. In a more sensibly constructed universe, it would be a matter of no consequence whatsoever that a grown man should pluck a dead leaf out of a scraping of sand before hitting a little white ball with a stick but, in golf, that simple action provokes much furrowing of brows, much stroking of chins and much high-camp hysteria all round.
Which is all very funny when you watch from the sidelines, but take to the fairways and you quickly discover what all this pedantry is for. In golf, rules is rules for the very good reason that life is actually simpler that way, and pity help a player who should try to bend them.
A player like Simon Dyson, for instance. A few days ago, playing in the BMW Shanghai Masters at Lake Malaren, Dyson blew his chances of victory - and, potentially, his good name - when he appeared to tap his ball down on a spot between his marker and the cup. Whether he was flattening a spike mark or a passing aphid is not exactly clear, but it was a matter beyond all doubt whatsoever that he had contravened rule 16-1a, which forbids a player from touching the line of a putt.
The incident was spotted by one of those eagle-eyed armchair umpires who appear to revel in such infractions. The call went in to the European Tour headquarters at Wentworth, the message was relayed to the on-course referee John Paramor, the footage was reviewed and Dyson was disqualified (on the even more arcane basis that he had signed for a wrong score because he had failed to penalise himself).
Now, being a bit of an eagle-eyed armchair umpire myself, I've watched the video a number of times since. Dyson's offence is obvious, but what is not so clear is his intent. The Englishman is known as a fidgety player, and his action is more easily interpreted as a nervous twitch than a genuinely sinister attempt to gain unfair advantage. But, as I say, rules is rules, and, in this case, a rule was broken. Expensively, too, as a good result in China would have got Dyson into the Tour's lucrative season-ending finale in Dubai next month.
Punishment enough? You'd think so. But no sooner had the distraught Dyson boarded his flight back home than a whispering campaign began in his wake. According to reports, "four members" of the Tour's players' committee were "outraged" by the incident. There is talk now of a misconduct charge, a hefty fine and even a suspension. Apparently, he is in "for a shower of locker-room abuse" at his next tournament.
Well how about a shower of contempt for those players who are the anonymous sources of this story as well? Their outrage would be easier to swallow if even one of them had had the guts to remove the cloak of anonymity and put his name to their criticisms of Dyson. If you're going to call a man a cheat then you should have the courage to do so to his face, not by way of a whispering campaign and unattributable briefings.
For the life of me, I can't see that Dyson's action could be proved beyond reasonable doubt to be intentional cheating, which is surely the test that has to be satisfied. Whatever the findings of the internal review the European Tour has now established, though, the whiff of suspicion will linger long and damagingly around his name. Maybe his accusers would prefer him to own up to his guilt. But then maybe they should set an example by owning up to their own identities first.
AND ANOTHER THING
There are times when the R&A would struggle to see sense if the word was written in 20ft high letters on a billboard halfway down the first fairway at St Andrews. But credit to them this time, for drawing a line under the farce that has been International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship.
The IFQ route, introduced in 2004, involved 36-hole qualifying events in Australasia, Asia, Africa, the United States and Europe. Inevitably, players who felt they were out of the running after 18 holes withdrew in huge numbers; 29 pulled out of the event at Sunningdale this year. The new system will use 14 existing professional tournaments, adding prestige and excitement in the process.
The even better news is that the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the final event before next year's Open at Hoylake, will be one of them.