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.


Oneunder2001 said...

Thanks for this post and the Golf Channel video. She has a better understanding of the rules then she wants you to know. I think what she is lacking, and it pains me to say this, is a sense of responsibility. Hope she grasps it soon. IMO her "discussing the penalty" could be far more damaging then the penalty itself.

Unknown said...
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Lawrie said...

If she was saving herself from falling into the water she would have grounded the club on her right side to stop her falling, not her left side. Her balance point is the opposite to where she grounded the club. This girl clearly needs to get over herself and show a little more maturity. She seems to think the rules should not apply to her. There is little doubt that she has a great deal of golfing talent and it seems she is determined to waste it.

Thanks Barry for the post and the video.

Rowan Milton said...

MW> er..I was like, it..

agree with Lawrie and Oneunder2001.

and thanks to Barry for pointing the ruling out.

Jane said...

May I clarify something here. The rule states "before making a stroke". In this scenario the club was grounded after the stroke, after the follow through. Is this still a penalty?

Barry Rhodes said...


But it was before her next stroke from the hazard;

... when she grounded her club following a poor shot from the water when her ball remained inside the margin of the hazard.