The honor system in golf is not for showing off Presbyterian rectitude for its own sake, but to facilitate gambling, which has always been a huge part of the game. Golfers wander all over a quarter square mile or more of landscape, providing endless opportunities for cheating. The chief enforcement mechanism in a culture of betting is a concern for one's reputation as a sportsman. The statements made by other golfers about Tiger Woods this week have been in the ancient tradition of gentlemen policing their game, which is why it has struck many observers as atavistic.
Miller Barber, who won 11 PGA Tour events before enjoying tremendous success on the Senior Tour, had begun the final round one shot behind the iconic Palmer, but Barber had gone ahead with a series of 10 straight pars and as they stood on the 15th green, Barber was now ahead by two shots.
Palmer had air-mailed a 7-iron over the green at the par-3, chipped to 10 feet, and missed his par-saving putt, leaving it just on the edge of the cup. He walked up and nonchalantly stabbed at it, but he stubbed his putter and never touched the ball. After sweeping it in on the second try he immediately informed Barber that his score was a double-bogey 5.
"I couldn't believe it,” said Barber, who was so thrown by the incident that he went on to three-putt for a bogey, though his lead still increased to three shots. “In my wildest imagination I wouldn't have known he had done it if he hadn't spoken up.’’