Monday, 15 June 2009

Richie Ramsay Escapes Penalty at Wales Open

There was an interesting Rules incident at the Celtic Manor Wales Open just over a week ago. Scotland's Richie Ramsay was just one stroke behind the leaders when his third round was discontinued after 16 holes, due to bad light. During his play of the 8th hole television coverage had shown him pressing down the ground behind where he was going to play his next shot from (see video clip below). On entering the clubhouse the Rules Officials questioned him as to why he had done this. Preferred lies were in operation because of the wet conditions and his explanation was that he was testing the ground to see if the spot where he intended to place his ball was in casual water. A long investigation followed during which the video evidence was watched repeatedly and then just before 11.00 pm Ramsay was asked to sleep on it without any decision having been made. The following morning he still insisted that he had not improved his area of intended swing and European Tour Chief Referee, John Paramor, said that there was to be no penalty. Ramsay then went out to resume and complete his third round.

Check out the video below and see what you think. The relevant part of Rule 13-2 is;

“A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
……… the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,
by any of the following actions:
……….pressing a club on the ground,
……….creating or eliminating irregularities of surface…..
However, the player incurs no penalty if the action occurs:
……….in grounding the club lightly when addressing the ball,
……….in fairly taking his stance,
……….in making a stroke or the backward movement of his club for a stroke and the stroke is made.”

In my opinion this is another in a lengthening number of decisions in favour of the tournament golfer, e.g. those concerning Kenny Perry, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson (click on the names to view the incidents). I am not saying that this is wrong, as I believe that where there is any doubt at all the ruling should respect the honesty and integrity of the players. There are even more recorded incidents where players have called penalties on themselves when there were no cameras, or indeed in some cases no other observers present, that Rules Officials are right to err on the side of leniency where a Rule may have been breached without intent. In golf the onus is on the player to police his own actions.

There is an epilogue to the Ramsay incident. He resumed his round at the 17th hole and almost immediately incurred a one-stroke penalty on the last hole for taking the wrong action after finding himself in casual water. Under the watchful eye of chief referee, John Paramor, this time, Ramsay took relief and dropped the ball, but then made the mistake of picking it up without marking it first. His par five on the hole became a bogey six and he signed for a 76. At the conclusion of the four rounds he finished tied for 10th place.

Play by the Rules and enjoy your golf,

Barry Rhodes

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