Friday, 7 January 2011

Camilo Villegas Breaches Rule 23-1 in Kapalua

Well, it did not take long for the first Rules controversy of the year to unfold. As I write, it is likely that Camilo Villegas will be disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii, following an incident during his first round. (edit: On Friday morning Camilo Villegas was indeed disqualified from the event.)

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This video shows that Camilo definitely moved a loose impediment from the likely path of his ball in motion. This is a clear breach of Rule 23-1, part of which states;
When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.
In stroke play the penalty is two strokes, but the fact that Camilo returned his signed score card without including the penalty, which he obviously did not realise he had incurred, means that he will have to be disqualified.

This is a Rule that is not breached very often by players themselves. Obviously, most balls that are struck are moving in a forward direction faster than the player could catch them up. So, this Rule is more likely to be breached by a competitor, who thinks that another player’s ball may be influenced by a loose impediment and removes it as a ‘favour’.

If the object moved by Camilo had been an obstruction (artificial) and not a loose impediment (natural) the ruling would be the same. Part of Rule 24-1b states;
When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than equipment of any player or the flagstick when attended, removed or held up, must not be moved.
The latter point is worth repeating as the moving of a removed flagstick by a player whilst a ball is in motion used to incur a penalty, until 1st January 2008 when the Rule was revised.

Good golfing,

Edit: In a statement released by the tournament, Villegas said,
“While it’s obviously a disappointing way to start the season, obviously the rules are the rules, and when something like this happens, it’s important to me that you’re respectful of the game and the people involved.”
Once again the integrity of the game of golf and the professionals that play it are the winners.

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DevilsAdvocate said...

I'm curious in this case of Camilo Villegas Breaches Rule 23-1 in Kapalua. Humor me if you will.

You stated that Camilo definitely moved a loose impediment from the 'likely path'; I don't see in the rules where the term 'likely path' is used, rather that if an impediment might influence the movement of the ball.

If in fact 'likely path' is not in the rules then "might influence' could be argued that "might influence" means; Had the ball crossed the path of where the impediment had been. In which this case it is clear that the ball would not have crossed the path of where the impediment had been since a divot just before the area which had been cleared, caused the ball to change course and the impediment would not have affected the ball any way.

Sorry, I know this may seem petty but, the rule of a professional sportsman inadvertently and unknowingly submitting a false record of score being removed from a tournament is in my opinion, petty to say the least.

Barry Rhodes said...

DevilsAdvocate (good handle!)

I do my best to interpret the Rules of Golf for the benefit of others. My experience has shown me that there are good, logical reasons behind all 34 Rules, reinforced by more than 1,200 Decisions. Of course, you are correct in that Rule 23-1, the relevant part of which I included word for word in my blog, does not use the words 'likely path'. The point that I was making, which seems to have been understood by most readers, is that a player only incurs a penalty if they remove a loose impediment from an area where, if it had not been removed, it might influence the roll of their ball. It is in this context that I used the words 'likely path'.

I don't accept your narrower interpretation of the words 'might influence' as meaning that no penalty is incurred if the actual path of the ball does not pass over the spot where the loose impediment was removed from. I am sure that if this had been the intention of the Ruling Bodies they would have replaced the words 'might influence' with 'would influence' in their wording, which as they warn in the front of the Rules book, is very precise (see my September 12th, 2010 blog). Just imagine the chaos that could ensue if the words in the Rule were 'would influence' and the player and his fellow competitors could not agree on which path the ball would have taken.

Finally, I cannot agree with your last point. If players, whether professional or amateur, are permitted to return scores that do not include penalty strokes which they had incurred, but did not know about, then other players who do penalise themselves for the same breach could be placed at a disadvantage and there would be less incentive for players to learn the Rules. Once again, the media coverage of Camilo's disqualification has brought welcome attention to this particular ruling and the fact that all golfers are responsible for knowing the Rules (Rule 6-1). There is only one set of Rules for 60 million golfers all over the world and it is important for the integrity of the game that, in competition, we all respect them.

It could be argued that Camilo should only have been penalised the two strokes and allowed to continue playing in the competition. In my opinion, this would lead to players not always penalising themselves for breaches that they were aware of, in the knowledge that if they were later reported, they would only incur the same penalty as if they did include the known penalty on their score card. Disqualification in these circumstances is harsh, but is the only credible penalty for returning a score card that shows less strokes than were actually taken.


Anonymous said...

Hello Barry,

If Camilo's ball was at rest at the top, and then he moved the loose impediment, but moments later the ball then rolls down the hill and gets deflected over the spot where they loose impediment originally was and then comes to rest next to where the loose impediment originally lay, would there be a penalty? (1-2/8 is a similar decision in the latest edition). I am thinking that despite 1-2/8 saying there would not be a penalty under that rule, he has in effect breached 13-2 in respect of his next shot and should be penalised 2 strokes. In addition there may be a breach of 19-2 as the ball has been accidently deflected as a result of removal of loose impediment. In which case is there multiple penalties (breach of 13-2 and 19-2)?

Barry Rhodes said...


In my opinion, no penalty would be incurred in the circumstances that you describe; there is no breach of Rule 13-2. Decision 13-4/35.5 is the relevant reference.

If a penalty was incurred (e.g. the ball was not at rest at the top of the hill) only one penalty would apply under Decision 1-4/12, 2. One Act Results in Two Rules Being Breached – Single Penalty Applied.