“A stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke."
So, if Cotton had intended to move his ball into the hole with his action it was clearly a stroke and must be counted as such. His fellow competitors on the day were Cary Middlecoff (the eventual winner) and Jimmy Demaret, both of whom were convinced that Cotton had definitely made a stroke at his ball, whereas he claimed that he had merely lost his balance as he stretched across the hole and had only stabbed his putter to the ground to steady himself. Where there is such a dispute over the facts Rules officials have no choice but to accept the player’s word, but at the end of the round neither Middlecoff nor Demaret would attest his score for that hole. Was it a case of cheating, or not? There is no doubting what the local Rochester, newspaper editor thought. The following day, his classic headline over the report of the incident read, “Britannia Waives the Rules”.
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Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’