Monday, 3 October 2011

Kevin Na – When Is a Stroke Not a Stroke?

I am surprised to have read so many comments speculating that Kevin Na should have been penalised for his apparent ‘whiff’ (known as a ‘fresh air’ where I come from) on the 15th tee at TPC Summerlin, in Nevada, last Saturday. A ‘whiff’ is a most embarrassing moment for any golfer. It occurs when a player takes a swing at their ball, with the intent of moving it, and fails to make contact with it. The first point to note is that there is no penalty for a ‘whiff’, but the attempted stroke does count, even though the ball has not moved. Consider the Definition of Stroke;
A "stroke" is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.
So, there was definitely no breach of any Rule by Kevin Na, but the question is did he make a stroke at his ball, which would increase his score for the hole by one? Check out this YouTube video for the evidence;

Edit 7th October 2011: Unfortunately, both the original video clip referred to and a replacement one have been taken down, due to "a copyright claim by PGA Tour". All I have left is this photo, which shows Na's club missing his ball by a distance.

I think that it is obvious from Na’s demeanour (on the video clip that has been removed) that he never considered that he had just wasted a stroke by missing his ball with a stroke on the teeing ground and this was the ruling from the PGA Tour officials when the incident was brought to their attention. Later, it transpired that Na had forewarned officials of the possibility of this very situation;
“I’ve had a talk with a bunch of rules officials, I mean even a couple years ago,” he said. “I remember at [the Sony Open in Hawaii], It started with the left arm injury and it kind of became a habit. I told them, ‘Hey, guys, I do this all the time. So I’m just letting you know ahead of time that I do this all the time.’ And we had a big talk, and [the official] said, ‘It’s not a big deal. As long as you don’t make contact, it doesn’t matter.’”
He further explained;
“I’ll take it [the club] back; it feels decent, and my transition is what I’m always working on,” Na said. “It’s always my bad habit is I get quick. And on the way down my transition doesn’t feel right, and I try to stop, and obviously it’s impossible for me to stop. The only way for me to stop is I have to come up and go over the ball.”
Decision 14/1.5 clarifies the ruling;
Q. A player begins his downswing with the intention of striking the ball but decides during the downswing not to strike the ball. The player is unable to stop the club before it reaches the ball, but he is able to swing intentionally over the top of the ball. Is the player deemed to have made a stroke?

A. No. The player is considered to have checked his downswing voluntarily by altering the path of his downswing and missing the ball even though the swing carried the clubhead beyond the ball.

If the player had not successfully checked his downswing (i.e., he had struck the ball), he is considered to have made a stroke.

Any doubt regarding the player's intent must be resolved against the player.
Despite this last sentence I think that it is obvious that Kevin Na did check his downswing so that he would not strike his ball. Tiger Woods has similarly aborted strokes on more than one occasion (Click on this link to view three different incidents on YouTube).

Good golfing,


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1 comment:

courtgolf said...

Hi Barry -

I had the same problem with that last sentence until I connected it with the next to last sentence where the player tried to stop his swing, but made contact anyway. It is awkwardly printed and seems that those last two sentences should be in one paragraph instead of separate.