Monday, 29 March 2010

Michelle Wie in Trouble Over the Rules Again

Just three weeks ago, I wrote about Graeme McDowell penalising himself for touching the water with his club at the start of his backswing, I advised, “Unless you regularly practice playing out of water, don’t do it!” Well, I don’t know whether Michelle Wie practices playing out of water but I do know that she might benefit from spending a little more time understanding the Rules of Golf. Yesterday, during the final round of the Kia Classic in California, she incurred yet another tournament penalty when she grounded her club following a poor shot from the water when her ball remained inside the margin of the hazard.

Here is the Los Angeles Times version of what happened at the Kia on Sunday:
“Wie went for the green in two on the par-five hole, but her ball landed near the edge of a greenside lake. With her right foot in the water, Wie tried to splash out. The ball popped up and landed in the grass, but still inside the hazard line.
After her follow through, Wie touched her club in the grass beside her, violating Rule 13-4b, and turned what was a great par save into a double bogey.”
Michelle was not happy with the two strokes penalty ruling and discussed the detail of the incident with Rules Official for a full ten minutes, arguing that she had grounded her club in an attempt to keep her balance after the shot. Here is the relevant part of what she said when interviewed after the event;
“I thought it looked differently than -- they interpreted it differently than what I felt. I knew that I did ground the club, that was a fact, but that was the only fact.
I did call for a ruling; I knew I did that, but at the same time I knew that I felt off-balance. I closed my eyes when I hit the shot and I ground my club so I wouldn't fall into the water. I was wearing a white skirt.
You know, that happens, I accept it. I accept the fact that it is a penalty stroke, you ground a club in the water hazard, that happens, but the fact is that, you know, I felt like I was off-balance, and that's why I grounded the club, and they ruled, and there is nothing I can do about it.”
Thanks to Golf Channel you can make up your own mind on this by watching the episode on video (following the short advertisement) by clicking here.

The Rule that Michelle Wie breached was Rule 13-4, part of which states;
"Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:
a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;
b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard."
If Michelle had been using her club to prevent herself from falling she would have avoided a penalty under the first exception to this Rule, which reads as follows;
“Provided nothing is done that constitutes testing the condition of the hazard or improves the lie of the ball, there is no penalty if the player (a) touches the ground or loose impediments in any hazard or water in a water hazard as a result of or to prevent falling, in removing an obstruction, in measuring or in marking the position of, retrieving, lifting, placing or replacing a ball under any Rule or (b) places his clubs in a hazard.”
Regular readers will know that this is not the first time that Michelle has fallen foul of the Rules. She was disqualified at the 2005 Samsung World Championship after taking an incorrect drop; she was penalised at the 2006 British Open for making contact with a piece of moss behind her ball during her backswing while hitting out of a greenside bunker, which I later featured on a short video explanation of the Rule; and she was disqualified in July 2008 because she’d left the scoring area without signing her card.

One has to feel sorry for her but, especially as some of these transgressions have been very expensive lessons. Her two strokes penalty on Sunday cost her at least a share of second place (she finished tied 6th) and about $90,000 in prize money. In fact, she claims that the incident might have cost her the title, as it naturally broke her concentration when she saw the penalty added to her score on the score board.

Another example of how knowing the Rules of Golf can be of significant benefit!

Barry Rhodes

And if you want to understand the Rules better, or know someone else who does, then I recommend my book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’, the easiest way to gradually assimilate all the important Rules without studying them.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Two Europeans Disqualified for Breach of Rules

The responsibility that a marker has in signing a player’s card was brought into sharp focus on the first day of the European Tour’s Andalucian Open in Malaga on Thursday, when a player and his marker were both disqualified.

The circumstances were that Spaniard Borja Etchart, a 21-year-old playing just his third European Tour event, was accused of wrongly replacing his ball on two putting greens. His marker, Norwegian, Eirik Tage Johansen, did not report it to officials before signing the scorecard.

Johansen had spoken to the third player in the group, former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart, about the way Etchart replaced his ball on the putting greens and they had agreed that it was not done according to the Rules. However, it seems that neither player said anything to Etchart on either of the two occasions, which seems curious to me. Surely, they could have prevented any breach by mentioning their concern to the player as it happened. Information on the Rules is not advice and players are permitted, indeed encouraged, to prevent any breach of the Rules.

Once the card had been signed by the player and his marker the tournament director had no choice but to disqualify both of them for signing a card that did not incur the known penalty. The relevant Rules are;
Rule 20-3, part of which states; “A ball to be placed under the Rules must be placed…. on the spot from which it was lifted…”.
Rule 1-3, part of which states; Players must not agree … waive any penalty incurred.”
By signing Etchart’s card Johansen knowingly ignored the breach of Rule that he had witnessed and also had to be disqualified.

There was an obligation on Andrew Coulthard to report the breach that he had witnessed, or he too could have been disqualified. Decision 33-7/9 explains why;
“The responsibility for knowing the Rules lies with all players. In stroke play, the player and his marker have an explicit responsibility for the correctness of the player's score card.

There may, however, be exceptional individual cases where, in order to protect the interests of every other player in the competition, it would be reasonable to expect a fellow-competitor or another competitor to bring to light a player's breach of the Rules by notifying the player, his marker or the Committee.

In such exceptional circumstances, it would be appropriate for the Committee to impose a penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7 on a fellow-competitor or another competitor if it becomes apparent that he has failed to advise the player, his marker or the Committee of a Rules breach with the clear intention of allowing that player to return an incorrect score.”
Etchart was adamant afterwards that he had not tried to cheat. Through an interpreter he said;
“The two players have seen me doing it wrongly and if that’s what they say I take it. But I think I have done nothing wrong. I may have made a mistake, but I think they made a big mistake by not reporting that. They didn’t mention anything during the round.”
By knowing the Rules you can help not only yourself but those that you play with as well.

Barry Rhodes

Have you subscribed to ‘Rhodes Rules School’, a weekly series of emails posing questions that are based on an accompanying photo, or photos? No charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here to start receiving the emails, one per week.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Rhodes Rules School - New Subscription List

I am sure that you are familiar with the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Sometimes, I find it difficult to clearly describe some of the myriad Rules situations that occur on the golf course using just words. So, I have just started a new series of weekly emails, posing questions that are based on an accompanying photo, or photos. I am confident that this will prove to be an interesting way for you to increase your understanding of the Rules, supplementing the content that I post here on my blog. I am calling this series;
Unfortunately, whether or not you automatically receive notice of my blog entries, you will still have to subscribe for these weekly illustrated emails, as I am now using the specialist email service provider, AWeber Communications. However, it couldn’t be simpler. Just click here and enter your name and email address and then respond to the verification email that they will send you by return.

Of course, there is no charge involved and every weekly email that I send will include an unsubscribe option, should you choose to stop them at any time.

One last point, your email has to be capable of receiving HTML messages (not just plain text messages) in order to show the photos.

I hope that you find these illustrated question and answers interesting and that they will help you continue to improve your knowledge of the Rules, so as to lower your scores and enjoy your rounds more.

Don’t forget, you will only receive my weekly Rhodes Rules School emails by signing-up here.

As always, good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Author of ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’ – the easiest way to get to know the Rules

Monday, 8 March 2010

Graham McDowell Calls Penalty on Himself

Graeme McDowell

Yet another example of the remarkable integrity of most professional golfers occurred during the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, last Friday. On the 18th hole, Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell, currently ranked 49 in the Official World Golf Rankings, drove his ball way right and found it submerged in shallow water inside the water hazard. He decided to take a risk and blasted it about 70 yards down the fairway. But he was worried that his club may have grazed the water on his backswing while hitting out of a hazard. As he commented afterwards, “I just felt that perhaps I had turned on my club on the way back as I made my backswing and as soon as I did it, I kind of felt like something was up.”

McDowell immediately mentioned his concern to Dottie Pepper, the roving course reporter from The Golf Channel, and she alerted the Rules Officials. After completing his round, but before signing his scorecard, McDowell went into the TV booth to watch slow-motion replays. The video evidence confirmed his apprehension and he called the two stroke penalty on himself for a violation of Rule 13-4, which prohibits grounding a club in a hazard. He then signed his scorecard with a double bogey 7 on the last and returned it to the Committee. Instead of lying in second place, just one stroke behind the leader, he found himself down in fifth place, three strokes down.

I am sure that many readers are wondering why dipping your club in water on the backswing should incur a penalty. Surely, there is no way that this action can give you any information about the condition of the water that might help you in completing your stroke. Well, I don’t pretend to know why this is the Rule, but it is consistent with the fact that players may not touch sand in a bunker (the other type of hazard) during their backswing.

It is worth pointing out that the relevant part of Rule 13-4 states,
“.... the player must not: .... b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club.”
So, be careful not to dip a hand, or club, in the water before making your stroke, there may be an eagle-eyed Rules enthusiast observing you!

I suspect that Graeme McDowell wishes that he had taken a penalty drop from the water hazard on the 18th. After his round he admitted, “It's a disappointing way to end the day but, it could be worse, we don't get that much practice playing out of water!” Exactly! Unless you regularly practice playing out of water, don’t do it!

Finally, this incident brings to mind another little known fact about the Rules of Golf. There are only three occasions when a player is permitted to strike a moving ball; they are listed in Rule 14-5;
“A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.
* Ball falling off tee - Rule 11-3.
* Striking the ball more than once - Rule 14-4.
* Ball moving in water - Rule 14-6.”
In the first case, the ball is not in play, so if a stroke is made at it, whether it is moving or not, the stroke counts but there is no penalty. If a ball at rest anywhere else on the course moves as the player makes their stroke it does count, but they are not exempt from any penalty under Rules 18-2b. In the second case, there is only one stroke counted but there is a penalty for hitting the ball twice. And in the third case, there is no penalty if the ball in water begins to move after the player has begun their backswing, unless they caused it to move.

Keep playing by the Rules and start improving your scores,

Barry Rhodes

If you would like a reminder whenever I post a new blog item just enter your email address in the top right hand corner of this web page. You can unsubscribe at any time and you have my word that your details will not be shared with anyone else.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tour Players to Go 'Back to School' Over Rules

Dustin Johnson, who retained his title at the Pebble Beach
National Pro-Am in February 2010

Have you ever wondered, as I have many times, why most Tour Pros don’t seem to know the Rules of Golf very well? Doesn’t this seem odd to you? Golf is how they earn their living; wouldn’t you think that they would make a big effort to learn them? It’s a bit like a taxi driver not bothering to learn the applicable rules of the road, main routes and places of interest for their area. Golfers who don’t know the Rules run the risk of incurring unnecessary penalties, or not taking the most advantageous relief option available.

Well, it seems that in Europe the Ruling Bodies are getting fed-up with players continually calling for a referee to make and explain rulings on even the most basic situations. Senior European Rules Officials, John Paramor and Andy McFee, have outlined plans to educate Tour players on simple rulings and are producing a DVD, which explains the Rules surrounding some of the most common issues in the game. It seems that in future, if any player calls a referee to make what is considered to be a frivolous ruling, they will be given the DVD to study and required to attend a Rules seminar. If they fail to attend the seminar within the next three tournament weeks they can then be barred from entering another event until they have done so. My understanding is that there is no exam at the end of the seminar, which seems to me to be a bit of a cop out from what is otherwise an excellent plan.

When asked what represented a frivolous ruling, McFee commented that at Abu Dhabi last month, a player he declined to identify called for an official, who was several holes away. When the official arrived, the player said, "Is it two club lengths if I declare an unplayable?" McFee added, "We now have the right to make him go to the rules seminar.” He also mentioned two incidents in which Dustin Johnson asked for a ruling on two consecutive shots around the fifth green, during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. The first was for temporary immovable obstruction (TIO) relief from a grandstand (not applicable to most of us), the second, because his chip came to rest in a sprinkler head. Both were simple, tour event situations that should have easily been sorted out between the players and their caddies. Rule 6-1 states,
“The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules”.
Johnson’s explanation for delaying play by calling for the referee was, "I get a little confused; it's always good to get an official, so there's no question about it." Yet another example cited by McFee related to obtaining relief from a cart path. He said, “They need to know how to take relief from a cart path. Most golfers around the world know this, and our players should not be exempt from that.” Hear, hear and three cheers for the R&A Rules Officials.

Now, can we have the same plan for TV commentators please?

The Rules are the rules.

Barry Rhodes

Why not improve your understanding of the Rules by purchasing my book, '999 Questions on the Rules of Golf'. Definitely, the easiest and most fun way to learn.