Tuesday, 2 November 2010
This season has seen some spectacular Rules screw-ups from professional golfers that should really know better. But we rarely have three of them in a single tournament, which is what happened in the pro-celebrity Star Trophy at Mission Hills in Haikou, China, last weekend.
First, six-time Major winner, Sir Nick Faldo, suffered the indignity of a Round 1 disqualification. He missed a putt on the eighth hole and picked-up his ball, thinking that he could not better his playing partner’s score. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that the pro-celebrity format included a professionals only competition. His mistake was not brought to his attention until he had teed off at the next hole, by which time it was too late to rectify and he was automatically disqualified, under Rule 3-2, Failure to Hole Out.
Next, Colin Montgomerie was the weekend’s biggest loser when, during the final against retired lady golfer, Lorena Ochoa, his caddy moved an advertising sign on his line of play. This is permitted in any PGA or European Tour event. But a Local Rule at the Star Trophy, contained in a sheet handed out to the competitors before the competition started, stated that these signs could not be moved. Monty was penalised two strokes for his caddie's action; the same number of strokes that kept him from making a playoff against Lorena Ochoa, who therefore took the winner’s prize money of $1.28 million. Ouch!
Finally, the most spectacular penalty situation at this event was the 26-stroke penalty incurred by Ryuji Imada, who actually admitted that he did not bother to read the Local Rules sheet. When difficult course conditions require that ‘lift, clean and place’ operates on the PGA Tour, where Imada usually plays, players are able to place the ball within one club-length of its original position. But on the Asian and European tours, the ball must be placed within the length of a scorecard (about 6 inches). It wasn’t until the 12th hole that his fellow competitor, Danny Lee, noticed that Imada was breaking the rule and informed him accordingly. He was penalised two strokes for every ball that he had lifted, cleaned and placed on the fairway, a total of 26 strokes. When asked about his infraction, Imada succinctly replied, “I’m an idiot”.
Is it unreasonable, following Dustin Johnson’s high-profile and high-cost ‘Bunker-gate’ affair (see this link), to expect that golf Pros, and especially their caddies, should now pay more attention to the sheets that are given to all competitors prior to the start of each event detailing Local Rules and Conditions of Competitions? I don’t think so. Once again I recommend that you make this chore a regular feature of your own pre-game routine, especially when playing on a course that you are not totally familiar with. You can only gain by doing so.
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are coming to the end of another golf season. Why not use the off-season time to get a better understanding of the Rules. If you have not yet subscribed to my weekly ‘Rhodes Rules School’ series I recommend that you do so now. This weekly email, where I pose several Q&As based around photos of situations that players regularly encounter on the course, is sent without charge and you can unsubscribe at any time. Be assured that I will not pass on your email address to anyone else. Click on this link to subscribe.