This week, another unusual Rules incident occurred during the Tour Championship by Coca Cola, in Atlanta, Georgia. Rory McIlroy hit a wayward drive from the 14th teeing ground and his ball bounced off a tree and literally dropped into a spectator’s pocket. Click here for a YouTube video of the incident.
In fact, the ruling did not even require reference to a Decision, as the circumstances are covered by Rule 19-1. Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Outside Agency (a spectator is an outside agency);
If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, except:So, the Rules official checked that the spectator had not moved from where he was standing and enquired which of his pockets the ball had fallen into. He then asked Rory to mark the spot on the ground immediately beneath that place. Someone suggested that Rory should give the ball to the spectator, but the official clarified that he must continue play with the same ball, as it was obviously easily recoverable.
a. If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, but not nearer the hole
Some readers may be wondering what the ruling would be if the spectator had run up the fairway towards the hole, taken the ball out of his pocket and dropped it onto the green. A note to Rule 19-1 confirms that if Rory’s ball had been deliberately deflected or stopped by the spectator, the spot where the ball would have come to rest must be estimated and the ball dropped as near as possible to that spot.
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