Updated: October 30, 2013, 1:01 PM ET

Debate surrounds rules breach

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

>Another week, another rules controversy, and this one had nothing to do with Tiger Woods and Brandel Chamblee.

Front Nine

Simon Dyson was disqualified from the BMW Masters in Shanghai on Saturday because he had signed an incorrect scorecard Friday. Dyson, an Englishman fighting for his spot in the Race to Dubai finale in two weeks, had failed to add 2 strokes to his Round 2 scorecard for violating Rule 16-1a, which forbids a player from touching the line of his putt.

The rules infraction was called in by a television viewer. Because Dyson had not added 2 strokes to his score before signing his card Friday, he was disqualified.

And here we go again.

Dyson's infraction, it could be argued, was far worse than anything Woods did this year to make the world No. 1 the subject of so much angst in recent weeks. After running his birdie putt on the eighth hole past the cup Friday, Dyson marked his ball, then used it to tap down a spike mark that was in the line of his putt.

He did it so quickly and matter-of-factly, and it looks terrible. How the television commentators didn't notice it is remarkable, as the video clearly shows the violation. Not touching the line of your putt is one of the most basic rules in golf, and, although many think the inability to repair a spike mark is ridiculous, it is nonetheless a rule every pro knows.

To go anywhere near the line of your putt is simply not done, for fear of getting the very penalty Dyson suffered.

So, is he a cheater?

Based on all the venom directed at Woods, you'd think Dyson would be labeled that way. But not here. Afterward, he apparently told European Tour rules official John Paramor that he didn't even remember doing it.

Perhaps Dyson is so accustomed to tapping down spike marks around the greens -- players do this all the time in places where it is not on their line -- that he instinctively did so here. A skeptic might have a problem with that explanation, but the bottom line is, how do you know?

And that is the issue with labeling anyone a cheater.

Nobody can know what was going through his mind. Was it a reflexive move, one he did without thinking? Does he not know the rule? Or did he try to get away with something, making sure a spike mark didn't impede his path to the hole?

Apparently a few of Dyson's peers feel it was egregious enough for more study. None of them put his name to stories that appeared in the U.K. saying Dyson faces a possible fine or suspension, based on the results of a hearing.

Say what you want about Chamblee, but the Golf Channel analyst speaks his mind -- or, in the case of Woods, writes his opinion -- and sticks his name on it. It's a bit disingenuous to call out Dyson and hide behind anonymity.

But it is also dangerous to call people cheaters or even make that insinuation.

Dyson, 35, was tied for second at the time of his breach and will now need a good showing next week in Turkey to secure a place at the season-ending Dubai event. Would he risk harm to his reputation and a 2-stroke penalty over something so obvious with the television cameras rolling?

His penalty was severe -- not just the 2 strokes but then the arcane disqualification because of a day-later phone call. Even that remains controversial, as so often these incidents do not come to light unless they are spotted on television.

Golf's governing bodies are studying viewer calls-in and the subsequent scorecard DQ. They can't act soon enough. That is another issue altogether.

If there is any lesson to be learned, it is this: There is a huge difference between breaking the rules and cheating.

At The Turn

Joost Luiten showed up in Shanghai last week at the BMW Masters, only to hit one tee shot and withdraw. A sore shoulder meant he knew he could not play, but, because European Tour rules stipulate that you must play two of the three events leading up to the season-ending event in Dubai to qualify, he felt he had no choice.

That wasn't much consolation to the first alternate, Justin Walters, who didn't get into the field. But Luiten had the support of many of his colleagues, who felt the rules forced him into the situation.

All of which caused Peter Hanson to chuckle. As the Daily Mail reported, Hanson was in a similar situation earlier this year at the Open Championship. He needed the start to fulfill his PGA Tour obligations. A bad back meant there was little chance he would complete 36 holes, and, sure enough, he withdrew after only four.

For that, he caught a good bit of grief -- it was known going in that his back was a major concern -- including from the first alternate via Twitter. "And it wasn't that good-natured, either," Hanson said.

The first alternate? Joost Luiten.

Back Nine

If you've wondered about the idea of the PGA Championship going overseas and how that might sit with an American television audience, all you need have done was tune in to last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia or this week's WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

If the PGA were to take its championship to Asia -- as many have suggested -- American TV viewers would be watching at night and sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.

And, depending on your perspective, that could be just fine.

The WGC is 12 hours ahead of Eastern time, meaning an 8 a.m. tee time is 8 p.m. Eastern time and 5 p.m. on the West Coast. Sure, the later tee times might be tough for those who need to go to bed, but there is a good bit of prime-time golf to be watched.

If the event is played in Australia, it is even better as the time difference is 14 hours or 16 hours, depending on the time of year. That means a last-group tee time of 2 p.m. Down Under could be 8 p.m. in the U.S. or even 5 p.m. if on the West Coast.

Keep that in mind as you watch overseas golf. There are many appealing aspects to it.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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