Thursday, 7 April 2011

Famous Rules Incidents at The Masters

I am sure that, like me, most golfers look forward to April and The Masters Tournament at Augusta. I am a great believer that one of the best ways to learn and remember the Rules of Golf is from watching televised golf; although you should be aware that the commentators get it wrong more often than they should. The Masters has provided several memorable Rules incidents, some of which I am summarising here for your interest.

2008 Padraig Harrington penalised himself one stroke because his ball had moved after he had addressed it, even though the movement was obviously caused by the gusty wind blowing around the course (Rule 18-2b)

2008 Rory McIlroy failed to get his ball out of a bunker and then kicked/smoothed the sand. If it had been ruled that he had kicked the sand in frustration he would have been disqualified, as Decision 13-4/0.5 states that kicking the ground in the hazard constitutes testing the condition. However, the Committee eventually accepted his explanation that he had merely smoothed the sand with his foot, which does not incur a penalty, as per Exception 2 to Rule 13-4.

2004 Ernie Els
pulled his tee shot deep into the woods bordering the left of the 11th fairway, where it came to rest in loose branches that had fallen from trees during a recent ice storm. Although the on-site referee had judged that no relief was available, this was then overruled by the Masters Competition and Rules Chairman, who allegedly claimed that any loose debris in the impeccably maintained Augusta National must obviously be there for imminent removal by the greenkeeping staff and that relief could therefore be taken under Rule 25-1b.

1968 Robert DeVicenzo signed and returned his scorecard, on which his marker had incorrectly listed a par 4 instead of the birdie 3 that he had actually made on his penultimate hole. The higher score returned had to stand, costing him the place in the 18-hole playoff with Bob Goalby that everyone was expecting. DeVicenzo's famous quote was, "What a stupid I am."

1958 Arnold Palmer landed behind the putting green and plugged in the rough. Under a Local Rule in effect that week Palmer believed that he was entitled to relief because the ball was embedded and Ken Venturi, who he was paired with, agreed. But the rules official on the scene, Arthur Lacey, a former president of the British PGA and double Ryder Cup team player, did not. He ruled Palmer had to play without relief. An argument ensued, and Palmer eventually played the ball, gouging it out of the turf, hitting a poor chip past the hole, then two-putting for a double-bogey 5. Feeling he had received a bad ruling, Palmer announced he was playing a second ball, under Rule 3-3. This time, with a drop to a clean lie, he chipped up near the hole and made par. The twosome played on, waiting for a rules committee to decide Palmer's fate. Of course, Palmer should have declared that he was playing a second ball before playing his original ball from the embedded lie and after declaring which ball he wanted to count provided it was within the Rules. In his book, "Playing by the Rules", he wrote that he told the Rules Official, Lacey, that he was going to play a second ball and appeal to the Rules Committee. But, Palmer said, Lacey wouldn't allow him to do that. Venturi doesn’t accept this explanation, although it is possible that he did not hear the conversation. Palmer and Venturi went to the 13th tee, with Palmer convinced he was right and Venturi convinced he was right. The ruling didn't come until the 15th hole, and Palmer was given a 3 instead of a 5. John Morrissett, the Director of Rules of Golf for the USGA, said he believes Palmer originally got a poor ruling, and perhaps the Committee was trying to make up for that when it allowed the second ball to stand. According to Morrissett, it does not appear that Palmer played the second ball correctly. If it happened today, Morrissett said, Palmer would have had to score the first ball. But the way the rule was written in 1958, there was arguably some ambiguity in the interpretation, which has since been rectified. This is Rule 3-3a, Doubt as to Procedure as it is today;

In stroke play, if a competitor is doubtful of his rights or the correct procedure during the play of a hole, he may, without penalty, complete the hole with two balls.

After the doubtful situation has arisen and before taking further action, the competitor must announce to his marker or a fellow-competitor that he intends to play two balls and which ball he wishes to count if the Rules permit.

The competitor must report the facts of the situation to the Committee before returning his score card. If he fails to do so, he is disqualified.

Note: If the competitor takes further action before dealing with the doubtful situation, Rule 3-3 is not applicable. The score with the original ball counts or, if the original ball is not one of the balls being played, the score with the first ball put into play counts, even if the Rules do not allow the procedure adopted for that ball. However, the competitor incurs no penalty for having played a second ball and any penalty strokes incurred solely by playing that ball do not count in his score.
I hope that you enjoy The Masters and all your golfing activity this week.

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