Sunday, 3 October 2010

Ricky Fowler Incorrectly Substitutes a Ball During Ryder Cup Match


The most interesting Rules situation at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales so far (I’m writing this on Sunday evening and the 12 singles matches will now be played tomorrow), concerned Corey Pavin’s pick, the 21-year old Rickie Fowler. He and his Thursday foursomes partner, Jim Furyk, suffered a loss of hole penalty on the 4th hole to go 2-down when Fowler incorrectly substituted a ball. To their credit they fought back to salvage a half against their formidable opponents, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, with Fowler sinking a tricky 5 foot putt for birdie on the 18th green.

The circumstances of the penalty were that Furyk's drive from the 4th teeing ground flew into a very muddy area that was ruled to be an abnormal ground condition from which relief was available. Instead of picking the ball out of the mud and cleaning it, Fowler, whose turn it was to play the next stroke, pulled a ball out of his pocket and dropped it within one club-length of the nearest point of relief. The relevant Rule is 25-1b, Abnormal Ground Conditions Relief;
"(i)Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green."
Note that the player “must lift the ball and drop it”. Therefore, by dropping another ball Fowler had incorrectly substituted a ball. In stroke play this breach incurs a penalty of two strokes, but in match play it is loss of hole.

Fowler has probably not played the foursomes format very often but the mistake was still inexcusable at this level. At the very least, Jim Furyk or either of their caddies should have spotted the error before Fowler actually played his stroke. Had any of them done so, he could have re-dropped the correct ball without penalty. Rule 20-6;
“A ball incorrectly substituted, dropped or placed in a wrong place or otherwise not in accordance with the Rules but not played may be lifted, without penalty, and the player must then proceed correctly.”
Immediately following this ruling there was a follow-up incident, illustrating another interesting Rules question. When Lee Westwood learned that he and Martin Kaymer had won the hole he returned to his ball and played a stroke to the green, which was over 150 yards away. Since the hole was over, was Westwood permitted to play his shot or does it amount to a practice stroke? Decision 7-2/1.5 confirms;
"Q. In a match between A and B, A holes out for a 4. B has played four strokes and his ball lies in a bunker. Thus, the hole has been decided. If B plays from the bunker, would the stroke be considered a practice stroke?
A. No. Strokes played in continuing play of a hole, the result of which has been decided, are not practice strokes — see Rule 7-2."
I don’t know about you, but for me the Ryder Cup is the ultimate event of all the sports that I follow. It seems that most of the players feel this way too; their enthusiasm for this team competition, for which they do not get paid, is patently obvious. Long may it continue!

Barry Rhodes


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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I did not see this on TV, BUT I was told that the rules official was standing right there!
I am a rules official and find this, if 100% true, embarrassing.
The official could have instructed the player to correct his mistake
(20-6), instructed the player to drop THE BALL according to rule 25-1b thus avoiding incurring any penalty.
Most of the times, w are required to make decisions based on questions of fact, but in many instances, we provide assistance to players in doubtful situations and help avoiding a breach of the rules.
Please comment.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

In my opinion, in a match play situation like the Ryder Cup, a walking official should not step-in to correct a player's mistake. As you know, Rule 6-1 states that the player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules. Ricky Fowler is a very young Pro golfer but he has already played more golf than most players will in their lifetime. His caddie is employed to assist him and in Jim Furyk and his caddie, Fluff Cowan, he had two of the most experienced individuals on tour at his side. So, my feeling is that the walking official is there to provide advice on the Rules when asked, not to step-in and possibly change the result of a match.

Barry

Anonymous said...

A Rules Official should always "step-in" if a player is about to breach a Rule and advise him/her of the correct procedure.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

You are absolutely correct. I am advised that every Ryder Cup match had a referee in attendance and that all golf referees are encouraged to prevent breaches of the Rules where they can. One must therefore presume that in this case the referee did not notice that Ricky Fowler had wrongly substituted a ball in his foursomes. I bet that he is taking some banter for that lapse from his colleagues and friends!

Barry

Anonymous said...

I was a referee at The Ryder Cup in 2010, and I know the referee in question very well. He is a world class referee and he would have stepped in if he had been aware of any rules breach taking place.

There was so much going on within the matches that you literally needed eyes in the back of your head to observe everything that was happening. Not the referee to blame, purely the player's lack of knowledge/experience - remember if he was unsure he could have asked the referee if he was permitted to substitute balls in this situation.

Barry Rhodes said...

An interesting aspect to the above comments is that since this incident, almost 4 years ago, Decision 34-2/3 has been revised, regarding match play situations. It now reads;

Q. If the referee observes a player about to breach a Rule, may he warn the player and thus prevent a breach?

A. Yes. While a referee is not obliged to warn a player who is about to breach a Rule, it is generally recommended that a referee should do so. If he volunteers information about the Rules, he should do so uniformly to all players.

However, in match play where the referee has not been assigned to accompany the players throughout the match, the referee has no authority to intervene and, therefore, must not warn the player – see Definition of "Referee." (Revised)


Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry. Could you please on the following:
Having played a provisional because the original might be lost, if you play a stray ball thinking it is your provisional, you have played a wrong ball. However, if the stray ball was unplayable and you take relief, even though it was never the ball in play, have you incorrectly substituted a ball in the wrong place and if played would become the ball in play.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

As this question is off-topic for this blog and seems hypothetical, I would rather you email me direct at rules at barryrhodes dot com.

Barry