Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Pointing to the Line of Putt

A few weeks ago, when I blogged about the Aimpoint green reading system, I commented on players walking on and close to their line of putt. This week, I want to highlight the fact that purposely touching the line of putt and pointing to the line of putt can both incur a penalty.

Most golfers are aware that they may not purposely touch their line of putt, but there are a number of exceptions in Rule 16-1a, which are listed below. Note that part of the Definition of Line of Putt states this includes a ‘reasonable distance on either side of the intended line’. However, fewer golfers seem aware that they must not touch anywhere on the surface of the putting green while pointing out a suggested line of putt, even if that point is way off the intended line, or is behind the hole. In the above photo, the player’s partner, or caddie has touched the end of the flagstick behind the hole in pointing out their suggested line of putt, so the player incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play under Rule 8-2b;

When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
So, it follows that in pointing out a line of putt, a player may not touch the putting surface with their finger, the toe of their shoe, their putter, the flagstick, or anything else. They may point to the suggested line, but they must not touch the surface of the putting green while doing so.

These are the exceptions listed in Rule 16-1a to the general principle that players may not touch their line of putt;

The line of putt must not be touched except:
(i) the player may remove loose impediments, provided he does not press anything down;
(ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
(iii) in measuring - Rule 18-6;
(iv) in lifting or replacing the ball - Rule 16-1b;
(v) in pressing down a ball-marker;
(vi) in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green - Rule 16-1c; and
(vii) in removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1.
(Indicating line for putting on putting green - see Rule 8-2b)
Good golfing,

 


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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Stroke and Distance Penalty

In this week’s blog I want to emphasise a ‘get out of jail’ Rule that still seems to surprise many golfers; Rule 27-1a;
At any time, a player may, under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5), i.e., proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.

Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, if a player makes a stroke at a ball from the spot at which the original ball was last played, he is deemed to have proceeded under penalty of stroke and distance. 
I am going to highlight what I mean by ‘get out of jail free’ with three examples;
  • A player’s ball embeds in sand under the lip of a bunker. 
They do not have to hope for a miracle or take a penalty drop in the bunker, they may return to where they last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance.
  • A player strikes their ball from a bunker across the green into deep water in a water hazard.
Instead of dropping a ball on the far side of the water hazard to the putting green they may rake the bunker and drop a ball in it, at the point where it was at rest before the stroke was made and play again, under penalty of stroke and distance.
  • A player strikes their ball against a tree and it rebounds 70 yards farther from the hole than where it was played from, into deep rough.
They do not have to have to play the ball where it lies, or take penalty relief using that point as a reference, they can drop a ball where it was at rest before the stroke was made and play again, under penalty of stroke and distance.
Of course, there are two instances where golfers have no option but to incur the penalty of stroke and distance, which are when their ball is lost or is out of bounds. Many players feel that this is an unfair penalty and I am aware that some social golfers, when they are playing casual rather than competitive golf, permit the player to drop a ball on the course close to where they believe the ball was lost, or where it went out of bounds for a penalty. In fact, the Ruling Bodies have experimented with similar options over the years, as follows;

Out of Bounds:1920 Stroke and distance, but now the penalty stroke may be remitted by Local Rule.
1947 USGA and 1950 R&A Distance only, and no provision for change by a local rule.
1952 Stroke and distance.
1960 USGA experimentally changed to distance only.
1961 USGA back to stroke and distance. In addition, the USGA allowed an alternative procedure of stroke only - dropping a ball within two club lengths of where the ball went out of bounds on courses where the penalty of stroke and distance would be "unduly severe".
1964 USGA allowed a local rule to be adopted which allowed a stroke-only option if it was felt that stroke and distance would be "'unduly severe." The player could drop a ball within two club-lengths of where the original ball crossed the out of bounds line. Reasonable evidence was required both that the ball had gone out of bounds and as to the point of crossing. In the absence of either, stroke and distance was the only option.
1968 Rescinded.

Lost Ball:

1902 Stroke and distance, ball to be teed.
1920 Stroke and distance in both forms of play. Ball must now be dropped if not played from the tee.
1950 R&A changes penalty to distance only.
1952 Back to Stroke and distance.
1956 Ball may be declared lost by player. This option removed in 1964.
1960 USGA Distance only. Rescinded 1961.
1972 ball may be abandoned as lost without searching. Option Removed 1976.
(Reproduced from information on www.ruleshistory.com)


I am sure that I do not need to remind readers that if you think that a ball may be lost or may be out of bounds you should play a provisional ball, to save time and avoid the ‘walk of shame’ back to where you last played from.


Good golfing,


 


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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Immovable Obstructions on the Putting Green

I was giving a presentation on the Rules of Golf last week when the subject of artificial hole plugs was brought up. The first point for me to make is that Rule 16-1c permits a player to repair a hole plug, whether it is a natural plug of earth or an artificial plug (usually plastic) and this is permitted whether or not their ball lies on the putting green. The second, more important point that I want to make is that artificial hole plugs are by definition, immovable obstructions. The consequence of this is that when a player’s ball lies on the putting surface they may not only take relief from the artificial plug hole if it interferes with their lie, stance or area of intended swing, but may also take line of putt relief under this part of Rule 24-2a - Immovable Obstructions;
If the player's ball lies on the putting green, interference also occurs if an immovable obstruction on the putting green intervenes on his line of putt.
The procedure for taking relief is found in Rule 24-2b(iii);
If the ball lies on the putting green, the player must lift the ball and place it, without penalty, at the nearest point of relief that is not in a hazard. The nearest point of relief may be off the putting green.
Note that this is similar to the relief that is available in circumstances where there is casual water on the putting green between where a player’s ball lies on the putting surface and the hole, Rule 25-1b(iii).

Of course, there may be another type of immovable obstruction encountered on a putting green, most commonly wire netting, which has been installed by a greenkeeper to protect a newly renovated area, usually following animal or machinery damage to the putting surface. Very occasionally, on large putting greens, there may be sprinkler heads actually located on the putting surface, in which case the same line of putt relief option would apply.

Distance Measuring Devices
There still seems to be some confusion over the use of distance measuring devices (DMDs), where they are permitted by a Local Rule. Yes, you can now use an iPhone for measuring distances only, as the ban on taking a compass on the course was removed in January 2014. The USGA has a very useful infographic on the subject at this link.

Good golfing,


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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Which Ball is in Play?

Following last week’s blog, which I finished with a strong recommendation that players must put an identification mark on their balls if they want to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties, I received this interesting scenario;
"In a strokes competition, a player hits his tee shot in left rough. Goes to look for his ball, not finding after brief search, returns to the tee and hits a second ball into the same area. While looking for the second ball and finding a ball, a spectator advises that the ball he found is in the area where the first ball landed. Player cannot determine whether the ball he found is his first or second tee shot as both balls were marked the same. Player plays the ball found through the hole and asks for help in scoring to determine his score for the hole."
Initially, I thought that Situation 4 in Decision 27/11 provided the answer to this question (see below for the rulings on four interesting situations relating to a player who cannot distinguish between their original ball and their provisional ball in this Decision), but I have been corrected and I think that it is worth explaining where I went wrong. When a provisional ball is played onto the course there are two possible outcomes; the original ball may be found in bounds, in which case the provisional ball is then out of play, or the original ball is lost, in which case the provisional ball is the ball in play. The mistake that I was making in respect of the above question is that when the player returned to the teeing ground and put another ball in play, (Edit 17th June: which is not permitted to be a provisional ball) the first ball was immediately lost. So, when the player could not distinguish whether the ball that was found by the spectator was his original ball (lost and not in play under the Rules) or the second ball (the ball in play under the Rules), he was not permitted to assume that the found ball was his second ball. Therefore, his only way to proceed within the Rules was to return to the teeing ground and play another ball, his 5th stroke. Failure to do so meant that he was disqualified from the strokes competition, because he did not hole out with the correct ball.

Here is Decision 27/11 in full, which explains the principle when a provisional ball has been played;

A player entitled to play a provisional ball from the tee plays it into the same area as his original ball. The balls have identical markings and the player cannot distinguish between them. Following are various situations and the solutions, which are based on equity (Rule 1-4), when the above circumstances exist and one or both of the balls are found within a search of five minutes:

Situation 1: One ball is found in a water hazard and the other ball is not found.

Solution 1: The ball that was found must be presumed to be the provisional ball.

Situation 2: Both balls are found in a water hazard.

Solution 2: As the player's original ball is lost in the water hazard due to his inability to identify it (see analogous Decision 27/10), the player must proceed under Rule 26-1 with respect to the original ball (estimating the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, if necessary - see Decision 26-1/17); his next stroke would be his third.

Situation 3: One ball is found in bounds and the other ball is lost or is found out of bounds.

Solution 3: The ball in bounds must be presumed to be the provisional ball.

Situation 4: Both balls are found in bounds, whether in a playable or an unplayable lie, and (1) one ball is in a water hazard and the other is not or (2) both balls lie through the green or in a bunker.

Solution 4: One could argue that both balls are lost. However, it would be inequitable to require the player to return to the tee, playing 5, when the player has found both balls but does not know which is the original and which the provisional. Accordingly, the player must select one of the balls, treat it as his provisional ball and abandon the other.
Remember that the principle in Situation 4 does not apply to the question at the start of this blog, because no provisional ball was involved.

Good golfing,



 

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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Identifying Your Ball

It may come as a surprise to some golfers that the Rules do not require them to notify their marker or fellow competitor, which ball they are playing before starting a hole, nor when they are substituting a ball under the Rules during play of the hole. All that is required by the Rules is that a player can positively identify their ball in play, a subject which I previously blogged about in this article. Of course, I am not suggesting that a player should not inform those that they are playing with of the brand, number and any identifying marks on their ball; it is both good etiquette and the sensible thing to do, as it avoids any possible doubt that might arise when a ball is played out of sight. In fact, I recommend that markers make it a practice to ask the player they are marking for to describe the ball they are playing; how else can they be sure that the ball that the player finishes the hole with is the same one that they started with, or with the one that they correctly substituted under the Rules during play of the hole? Whilst on this subject I will make the point that in the absence of a ‘One Ball’ Condition of Competition, the player is permitted to change the brand, condition and colour of any balls they use during a round, without restriction. They may also borrow balls from any source. This makes it all the more necessary that they inform the other players in their group each time they change the ball they are putting into play.

I have often wondered how many Titleist Pro V1, No.1, balls there are on an 18-hole golf course at any one time. My uneducated guess is that the average is probably in excess of 18, or 1 per hole, including those that have been lost. So, how can a player positively identify their Pro V1, No.1, from the others on the course, if there is no identification mark? Even this may not be sufficient. I tell the story of a retired senior who played his home course 3-4 times a week. He had a mental block on one particular hole, which led him to regularly slice his drive into the same area of deep rough to the right of the fairway. On one occasion, after a couple of minutes, he shouted to his fellow searchers that he had found his Titleist No.1 ball. “How do you know it is yours?” responded his marker. “It has the same personal identification that I always use”, he responded. “You hit so many balls into this rough that it would need to have today’s date on it for you to be sure”, was the terse, unsympathetic reply!

Part of Rule 12-2 states that each player should put an identification mark on his ball. My strong recommendation is that each player must put an identification mark on their balls if they want to avoid incurring unnecessary penalties for playing a wrong ball, or not being able to positively identify a ball that has been found.

Good golfing,


 


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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

In Golf Size Can Matter

As I am enjoying a two-week vacation in very sunny Portugal, I am reproducing another article from Paul Kruger, who emails a 'Rules Tip of the Week' to friends and contacts who have an interest. Paul’s subject is one that I have not previously considered; when it comes to the Rules of Golf, size can matter.

Size Matters
"As we all know, golf is the game for all ages, and its players come in all shapes and sizes. We may be short or tall, slim or not so slim, younger or more mature, male or female. The myriad of differences among golfers in terms of height and weight is uniquely accommodated by the Rules of Golf in such a way that the same Rules apply to everyone.
 

Does size really matter? Well, it might surprise you, but size does matter, at least when it comes to certain applications of the Rules of Golf! For instance, for the most part, taller players use longer clubs, whereas shorter players use shorter clubs. The difference in the lengths of clubs is one area where size matters in terms of the Rules of Golf. Consider, for example, the depth of the teeing ground. By definition, the teeing ground is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and sides of which are defined by the outside limits of the two tee-markers. The adult male golfer, equipped with a 45” driver, will be allowed to tee his ball within a larger area than his junior counterpart equipped with just a 30” driver.

A similar example is the allowable area for dropping when taking relief. The adult male golfer using a standard length driver to measure (a) one club-length from the nearest point of relief under Rules 24 or 25; or (b) two club-lengths from where his ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard under Rule 26; or (c) two club-lengths from where his ball lies for an unplayable ball under Rule 28, will be able to drop within a larger area than the junior using a much shorter driver when measuring the one club-length or two club-lengths for her allowable dropping area.

One’s stature comes into play when considering the height at which the ball must be dropped when taking relief. All players are required to drop from shoulder height. Therefore, the shorter player will be dropping from a height that is nearer to the ground than the height from which the taller player drops his ball. The result is that the ball dropped by the shorter player will probably not bounce or roll as much as the ball dropped by the taller player once it strikes the ground.

According to Rule 20-2c, once the ball is dropped, it must be re-dropped if it rolls and comes to rest more than two club-lengths from where it first struck a part of the course. It would seem that the player who measures the dropping area with a longer driver may not have to re-drop as often as the player who measures with a shorter driver. But then again, the player establishing the allowable dropping area with a longer club will likely be dropping his ball from an increased height so his ball will be striking the ground with more velocity and his ball may bounce or roll farther after first striking the ground. So who knows?

Last, but not least, consider the definition of “casual water” which includes any temporary accumulation of water that is visible after the player takes his stance. As two players approach their balls lying side by side in a pool of casual water, the heavier player is likely to be the first one to discover casual water appearing around his shoes.  Thus, his nearest point of relief will probably end up being further from where the two balls came to rest than the nearest point of relief for the player weighing less!"

By Paul Kruger, PGA, The Landings Club, Savannah, GA
Good golfing,



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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

9-Hole Golf Competitions


















I am detecting a significant increase of interest among golfers who want their Clubs and Societies to arrange more 9-hole, qualifying competitions. This interest is not restricted to senior golfers (like me) who may tire towards the end of 18 holes, but from players of all ages, who do not want to spend the best part of a day travelling to the course, playing 18 holes, post-round socialising with their fellow competitors and then travelling again. I was interested to read that The United States Golf Association, in partnership with American Express, has announced plans for the second annual PLAY9™ Day, scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, 2015. I have bolded an important fact that emerges from a paragraph taken from the USGA announcement of this welcome initiative (see this link).
The 2014 program helped to educate golfers that nine-hole scores are eligible for handicap purposes. In 2014, the USGA’s Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN®) recorded a 13 percent increase from 2013 in nine-hole rounds posted in the two months after the program’s launch. Golfers can visit www.usga.org/play9 to find more information on posting a nine-hole score.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, there are at least six different handicapping systems in use worldwide and Committees should ensure that they are fully compliant with their national requirements before running 9-hole competitions that count for handicaps. I can confirm that the CONGU system (used in UK, Ireland and a few other countries) made some significant changes regarding 9-hole qualifying competitions in January 2014. This is from the current CONGU Unified Handicapping Manual;
Nine-hole qualifying competitions have proved to be very attractive to many clubs and players. The original restriction of a maximum of ten such competitions that could be played in any year has already been removed. It has now been agreed that such scores can be recorded from all clubs of which a player is a member rather than just his or her own home club. Further, the system will now allow the allotment of handicaps based on any combination of nine or eighteen hole scores subject to the cards representing 54 holes as is currently required with three eighteen hole cards.
Unsurprisingly, the Rules of Golf are exactly the same for 9-hole competitions as for 18-hole competitions, but I will draw your attention to one important fact, which may catch some players out. Decision 6-2b/0.5, Meaning of "Handicap" When Full Handicap Not Used, states;
Q. It is the condition of a stroke-play competition (e.g., four-ball) that players will not receive their full handicap allowances. Under Rule 6-2b, what is the player responsible for recording on his score card?

A. He must record his full handicap. It is the Committee's responsibility to apply the condition of competition to adjust his handicap.
So, assuming that each 9 holes has the same standard scratch, if a player’s full handicap is 12, that is what they must enter on their score card for a 9-hole stroke play competition and the Committee must make the 50% adjustment to calculate the net score/points total. If the player enters a handicap of 6 on their score card the Committee must calculate the net score/points using 3 as the player’s handicap for 9 holes. (Edited 28th May to make the point about standard scratch. Note that different handicapping systems may have different ways of dealing with this.)

Abnormal Course Conditions (1) Stipulated Round
Two weeks ago, a US Open local qualifier at Bethpage State Park's Red Course in Farmingdale, New York, was shortened to 17 holes because of ‘agronomic issues’. The reason was that the putting green on the par-3 4th hole was deemed unfit for use following prolonged severe weather in the off-season. Part of the Definition of Stipulated Round states;
The number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorised by the Committee.
Abnormal Ground Conditions (2) Preferred Lies through the Green
On Sunday, at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club, Texas, The PGA Tour took the highly unusual decision to implement lift, clean and place through the green, allowing players to take their ball in hand even in the rough. Hmmm! Whilst I understand the argument for implementing a Local Rule permitting relief for an embedded ball through the green when there are adverse course conditions, I sincerely hope that tour organisers do not use this instance as a precedent for similarly extending preferred lies when bad weather prevails.

Good golfing,



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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

May Miscellany

This week I am covering a few miscellaneous items that I hope may be of interest to readers.

R&A Rules Courses
I know that many subscribers and readers, as well as having a more than usual interest in the Rules of Golf, are also active or aspiring Rules officials. I have never been involved as an official, on-course referee, though I have often been called on to assist with rulings at Club and Inter-Club competitions. I was therefore surprised and delighted to be invited by the R&A to attend their Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School (TARS), which was being held in Ireland for the very first time, in Athlone, 75 miles (120 km) from Dublin. The R&A’s formal Rules Education programme consists of a three-tiered approach;

  • Level 1 Introductory Rules School
  • Level 2 Rules School
  • Level 3 Tournament Administrators and Referees School
More details of these courses can be found on the R&A web site at this link. Please note that Level 1 can now be completed by anyone on-line, at the R&A Rules Academy web site. I am delighted to report that following my participation in this Level 3 course, I have just received my certificate confirming that I passed the 2 ½ hours Level 3 exam with distinction, the highest grade possible. Now I can relax!

Handicapping Systems
Unlike the Rules of Golf, which are unified across the world, handicapping systems vary considerably from country to country. I am aware that there are at least six different handicapping systems in use in the following areas; USA, GB and Ireland, Continental Europe, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. Personally, I have trouble keeping up with the CONGU system that applies to golfers resident in UK and Ireland, which apparently is significantly simpler to understand than some of the other systems. However, this week I learned that the USGA is leading an effort to get the various international handicapping authorities to agree on a unified system, using the USGA’s Course Rating and Slope Rating as the basis for a proposed World Handicap System, and incorporating the best elements from the other systems. I certainly welcome and support this excellent initiative.

Statistics
Most readers of my weekly blog on the Rules receive it by email (if you don’t, just enter your email address at the top-right of this page). You may be interested to know that these emails are sent to over 7,000 subscribers (through the Google/feedburner service). At this time of year, I have an average of 50 new subscriptions every week (against an average of 7 unsubscribes). Similarly, over 9,000 Rules enthusiasts have subscribed to my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ weekly series. Of course, many of you are subscribed to both of these lists.  After almost 7 years of weekly blogs I now feature in the first few results for any ‘Googled’ questions on the Rules, even though I do not pay anything to them for this premium ranking, which results in approximately 8,000 hits to my blog site every week. My five short, instructional videos on my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site, have combined views of around 500 a week and my eDocuments have been sold into over 60 different countries.


Paperback Version of ‘999Q’
Thanks to the wonderful service from an Amazon Group company, CreateSpace, my Book ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ is now available as a paperback. Click on this link for details and to purchase. Please note that, as with all eDocuments purchased from my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site before the end of this year, I will provide an errata sheet to cover any of the changes to Rules and Decisions that are announced by USGA / R&A for January 2016.


Failure to Hole Out (Rule 3-2)

I was present at an Inter-Club, stroke play qualifier on Saturday when it was brought to my attention that a player, whose chip had resulted in his ball resting against the flagstick, had picked-up his ball and walked to the next teeing ground. He was obviously not aware that a ball resting against the flagstick in this way is not holed. All of the ball has to be at rest below the level of the lip of the hole. The player should carefully move the flagstick and if the ball falls into the hole they are deemed to have holed out with their last stroke.

I also heard about Irish Professional Golfer, Damien McGrane, disqualifying himself from the Open de Espana tournament, held near Barcelona, by picking-up his ball on his 17th hole after missing a relatively easy putt. “I just had enough” he said. He knew that he was on course to miss his fifth European Tour cut in a row. Although he did not hole out he continued to walk with his two fellow competitors, who were also going to miss the cut, until they had completed their rounds. I presume that a European Tour fine will be forthcoming for this unusual and untoward behaviour.

Good golfing,




The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Baddeley's Bad Drop

The famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass has not been kind to American Australian golfer, Aaron Baddeley (he has joint US and Australian citizenship). Even before his second round at The Players Championship on Friday, he had put more balls in the water on the island green 17th in previous events than any other player in the field. He then put two more in the water on Friday, bringing his career total to 10. However, this was not the end of it, as when dropping a ball in the drop zone for the second time he was far too casual and did not meet the requirements for a valid drop. From Rule 20-2;
A ball to be dropped under the Rules must be dropped by the player himself. He must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height and arm's length and drop it. If a ball is dropped by any other person or in any other manner and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.
From the photo above, you can see why the officials called Baddeley on this Rules infraction. Once again, the post-round comments by a professional golfer, following a Rules infraction, are revealing;
“It was a little bit bent instead of straight, which was like 4 or 5 inches difference. I wasn’t stressed. I knew I was missing the cut. I didn’t know that Rule. I didn’t know your arm had to be perfectly straight. I made sure it was shoulder height when I dropped it. That’s what I was thinking.”
If only Aaron Baddeley was a regular reader of my weekly blogs he would have known better! This is a link to a similar breach by Sun Young Yoo that I wrote about in 2012.

Sergio Garcia Didn’t Hole Out.

Some of you who watched to the end of The Players Championship may have wondered whether Sergio Garcia should have been disqualified for not holing out, after missing his birdie putt on the 18th, the final hole of the 3-hole aggregate playoff, when he realised that he could not match the -1 totals of Ricky Fowler and Kevin Kisner. Decision 3/1 provides the answer;

Q. A competitor in a stroke-play play-off incurs a penalty of disqualification. Does the disqualification apply to the play-off only or to the entire competition?

A. The disqualification applies only to the play-off.
So, Sergio did not forfeit his $880,000 prize money, for equal second place, the same as Kevin Kisner, who subsequently lost out to Rickie Fowler’s birdie on the fourth play-off hole.

Good golfing,


 


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The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lydia Ko's Ball 'Lost' in Tree

There are several circumstances in Golf where a ball is ‘lost’ even if the player is pretty sure that they know whereabouts it is. Here are four examples;
  • A player has searched for their ball for 5 minutes without success and walks back to where they last played from. Before they reach this spot, a spectator finds their original ball, but under the Definition of Lost Ball they may not continue play with it and must play again from where they last played, under penalty of stroke and distance. 
  • A player pulls their tee shot into deep rough. Although they are fairly certain that they will be able to find their ball they don’t want to, because they know that it might be difficult to get it back from where it lies onto the fairway, so they put another ball into play from the teeing ground, under penalty of stroke and distance, without announcing it as a provisional ball.
  • Two players hit their tee shots into the same area and both balls are easily found, but the balls are of the same brand and number and neither player has put an identification mark on their ball. Because neither player can positively identify their ball both are deemed lost, Decision 27/10. 
  • A player is certain that their ball is lodged high in a tree and can clearly see a ball in the tree, but cannot positively identify it as their ball. The player’s ball is lost. This is confirmed by Decision 27/15.
Q. A player is certain that his ball is lodged high in a tree. He can see a ball in the tree, but he cannot identify it as his ball. Is the player's ball lost, in which case he must proceed under Rule 27-1?

A. Yes.
So, in view of that last point, how did Lydia Ko escape a stroke and distance penalty on the 14th hole at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout last Thursday, when she hit her ball high into the branches of a tree in front of the green, with hundreds of spectators watching.  There is an LPGA video of the whole episode, showing Ko’s caddie climbing the tree and still failing to retrieve or identify the ball at this link, following the ad. I warn you that it is nearly 9 minutes long and there is very little action, but some of the commentary is interesting.
 

The LPGA's issued this official explanation of the ruling that saved Lydia from having to return to where she last played from:
The officials involved in the ruling with Lydia Ko today on the 14th hole referenced Decision 27/12 to support their ruling.  Due to the fact that it was roughly a 30-yard shot, the spectators were able to see Lydia’s ball from start to finish and therefore provided indisputable evidence that the ball in the tree was indeed Lydia’s ball. Therefore the ball did not need to be identified as it was never lost. The USGA confirmed that in a situation where observers indisputably saw the player’s ball in motion come to rest in a specific location at which the ball remains visible, the ball has been identified as the player’s ball. Thus, since the ball in the tree was deemed as Lydia's ball, she was then able to proceed under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.
And this is the wording of Decision 27/12;
Q. A's ball and B's ball came to rest close together. Neither A nor B could identify one of the balls as his ball because they were using balls with identical markings.
A spectator who saw both shots land was able to state which ball belonged to A and which one belonged to B. May his testimony be accepted, or should both balls be deemed lost because they could not be identified by A and B?
A. If the Committee determined that, based on information given by the spectator, A and B were able to identify their balls, the balls should not be deemed lost. Otherwise, they would have to proceed under Rule 27-1.
Note that Ko was penalised one stroke for deeming her ball in the tree unplayable, but was able to drop a ball within two club-lengths of the point immediately underneath where her ball was at rest in the tree, one of the options afforded by Rule 28. If her ball had not been positively identified by the testimony of the spectators she would have had to return to where she last played from, under penalty of stroke and distance, and would have been faced with the same difficult shot over the tall tree.

One last point to remember in similar circumstances is that the player should deem their ball unplayable before shaking the tree to try to recover it. Until the player deems it unplayable the ball is in play and if they, or their caddie, cause it to move they incur a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2a, and would then have to replace the ball where it was in the tree, or deem it unplayable for an additional penalty stroke.

Good golfing,




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