Saturday, 28 May 2011

Andres Gonzales Calls Penalty on Himself - Rules Official Disagrees

Andres Gonzales - Photo Titleist
Because I am going on vacation today I am taking a short-cut over a very interesting ruling that occurred during the first round of the Byron Nelson Championship on Thursday, involving bearded rookie, Andres Gonzales. I am a regular reader of golf blogger and journalist, Stepahnie Wie, who previously played competitive golf in the US junior and college circuits, and she has covered this unusual incident so competently that I am just going to point you to her two blogs on the subject. The most unusual aspect of this ruling is that the walking Rules Official overuled the player, who was about to penalise himself.

Check out the video entry first. Click here.
 

Now read the explanation as to why no penalty was incurred. Click here.

Good golfing,




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Friday, 20 May 2011

When May You Clean Your Golf Ball
















All golfers know that a ball on the putting green may always be cleaned when marked and lifted. However, elsewhere on the course there may be some confusion as to whether a ball may be cleaned or not. Rule 21 states that a ball that has been lifted under the Rules (e.g. ball unplayable, relief from an abnormal ground condition, relief from a water hazard) may be cleaned, but there are three exceptions;
a. To determine if it is unfit for play (Rule 5-3);
b. For identification (Rule 12-2), in which case it may be cleaned only to the extent necessary for identification; or
c. Because it is assisting or interfering with play (Rule 22).
If a player cleans their ball during play of a hole except as provided in this Rule, they incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball, if lifted, must be replaced.
This week I received this question about cleaning a ball that had been lifted because it was deemed to have been interfering with another player’s ball, as permitted by Rule 22-2.
“Recently I participated in a doubles match play. On the apron of a green I requested that one of my opponents’ balls be lifted as it was lying close to mine and was interfering with my intended chip. The opponent correctly marked and lifted her ball, holding it with thumb and forefinger of her left hand. I watched as she then transferred her ball to her right hand, again holding it between her thumb and forefinger. However, as she intently watched the play of her team member, she dropped her arm so that it was hanging straight at her side. She curled her fingers up causing the ball to roll back into her palm and it sat there 'cradled' until such time as she was to replace it. When it was her turn to play I challenged her, stating that she was deemed to have cleaned her ball. She denied having the ball in the palm of her hand and became very upset.  I can only say that I watched her movements intently and didn't lift my eyes off her ball for one second. Because she was so annoyed, I said that I believed that a breach of the Rules may be overlooked in match play and we then played out the hole. Was I right to call the penalty?”
This question raises two interesting rulings. The first concerns whether the opponent’s actions should have incurred a penalty. From the description of the incident it seems that there was certainly no intention by the player to clean her ball by cradling it in her hand and there is nothing in the Rules about a player being ‘deemed’ to have cleaned their ball. It is a strictly a question of fact. Decision 21-3 states;
Q. A player is asked to lift his ball, which is lying through the green or in a hazard, because the ball interferes with the play of another player. The player authorizes the caddie to lift the ball and, having marked its position and lifted the ball, the caddie throws the ball to the player who catches it. Except when the ball lies on the putting green, it is not permissible to clean a ball lifted because of interference. Does the act of throwing and catching the ball constitute cleaning it?
 A. Whether the ball is cleaned is a question of fact. The action described could result in a ball being cleaned. Any doubt should be resolved against the player.
Obviously, the course conditions have to be taken into account in determining whether the ball was cleaned. If the ball had mud on it then it is likely the action described may have loosened some mud. However, if the course conditions were dry then cradling the ball in a hand (as in the right-hand photo above) is highly unlikely to have cleaned it. The reason that many players pick up their ball using their forefinger and thumb is to show that they are aware that the ball must not be cleaned. There is nothing in the Rules that requires the ball to be handled in this manner.

The second ruling raised by this question concerns the writer’s belief that a breach of the Rules may be overlooked in match play, which is not quite correct. Certainly a player may observe a breach of the Rules by their opponent and not say anything, which differs from a player’s responsibility to all the other competitors in stroke play. But once a player suggests that there has been a breach and the opponent disagrees a claim must be made under Rule 2-5, so that the Committee may make an informed ruling based on the evidence. Players may not ignore a breach of a Rule once it has been brought up, or they would be breaching Rule 1-3, Agreement to Waive Rules, incurring the penalty of disqualification.

Good golfing,




Edit: My thanks to Richard for pointing out that Decision 20-1/0.7 rules that there is another instance where a player may not clean their ball when lifting it. This is when they a player lifts their ball to determine whether they are entitled to relief under a Rule, e.g., to determine whether their ball is in a hole made by a burrowing animal, or is embedded.

I have two, free subscription lists containing information on the Rules of Golf;
1.    You can receive these weekly blogs in your email by subscribing your name and email address in the box at the top right hand corner of my home page.
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If you are not subscribed to either of these lists I strongly recommend that you do so now, as it is a great way to get to understand the Rules better. There is absolutely no charge and it is easy to unsubscribe at any time. I do not share your contact details with anyone else.
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Seve Ballesteros RIP - Rules Incidents

Photo: © Steve Munday/AllSport
Seve Ballesteros and John Paramor debate an abnormal ground condition.

I am taking this opportunity to pay my immense respects to Seve Ballesteros, who was undoubtedly Europe’s best ever golfer. I have many brilliant memories of watching Seve play, but for me the highlight was in July 1996 when I had the pleasure of attending a clinic at Royal Dublin Golf Club given jointly by Seve and Jack Nicklaus. To my embarrassment, I have probably never hit a drive as long and straight as the one that Seve played whilst kneeling down!

Probably the most celebrated ruling concerning Seve was in 1994 on the 18th hole in Valderama 1994. Seve needed a par to tie Langer for the Volvo title, but had left his drive in loose soil from a hole behind a large cork tree. The Spaniard called the Tour Referee, John Paramor, for a ruling, claiming that the hole had been made by a burrowing animal (see photo). Paramor didn’t agree and for the next 25 minutes there followed an unforgettable, animated discussion, with Seve utilising his renowned expertise in pressure persuasion. In the end relief was not granted, Seve had to chip out sideways and he finished with a bogey, resulting in Bernhard Langer being the outright winner by a single stroke.

Seve’s renowned and remarkable powers of recovery can be viewed in this 2 ½ minute video clip from the 1979 Open Championship at Lytham St. Annes. He drives into the car park (his ball not his car!), which was not designated out of bounds, negotiates free relief with a Referee, drops his ball over his shoulder (which was the Rule at the time) knocks his second to about 20 feet from the pin and sinks the putt to go 3 ahead. He went on to win his first major title. Wonderful.

For those receiving this blog by email click here to view the video

Of course, there were the occasional bad times as well. In 1980 he was weak with flu when he arrived at Baltusrol for the US Open as the warm favourite. His mood darkened even further when his brother, Baldomero, caddying for him, was not allowed into the clubhouse dining room. It is still not certain as to whether it was a deliberate act or a mistake, he was 12 strokes behind the leader after only one round, but he arrived at the 1st teeing ground seven minutes late and the official starter had no option but to disqualify him. Years later he is reported to have said of the Baltusrol incident:
“It was my fault. I was stupid. But I felt like a dog which had been kicked.”
Even worse, in March 2003 he was involved in an ugly altercation with an official after his group had been warned about their slow play during the Madeira Island Open. That was bad enough, but only six weeks later he was penalised a shot for playing too slowly during the third round of the Italian Open. His marker added the penalty to the score for the hole, which he promptly erased. Naturally, when he returned his score card that did not include the penalty that had been imposed he was disqualified. Subsequently, he was fined £5,000 and was severely reprimanded by the tour's players’ committee, mainly comprised of his playing peers.

And now he has gone. Fortunately, we have much to remember him by. TV recordings, DVDs, interviews, biographies, articles, and best of all, memories. Will there ever be another European golfer with his skill, charisma, passion and heroics on the course and inspirational leadership off it. I think it is extremely doubtful. Sir Nick Faldo summed it up nicely on Twitter:

"He was our Arnold Palmer, Pele, Muhammad Ali - he was that big a name. Sad day. I would now call him the Cirque du Soleil of golf. The greatest show on earth.”
RIP Seve, It was great to have known your genius.
  


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Thursday, 5 May 2011

'Bad Rule' 18-2b to Be Revised

Note that this blog will no longer be relevant after the Rules of Golf revisions dated 1st January 2012 become effective.
 
US golfer, Webb Simpson, was involved in two separate Rules incidents at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last Sunday. The first is one that crops up regularly. Simpson, who was leading by a shot on the 15th hole of the final day, had addressed his ball lying less than a foot from the hole, when it moved a couple of millimeters. He is reported as saying that it was “probably caused by wind, combined with relatively dry and hard greens”. In fact, because he had completed his address of the ball (by taking his stance and grounding his club on the putting green), the ruling is the same whether it was him that caused his ball to move, or whether it was wind or gravity that moved it. He incurs a penalty of one stroke and must replace the ball. Simpson correctly called his penalty, which cost him dearly; as he went on to lose the tournament in a play-off to Bubba Watson. The most interesting aspect of this incident is that on the following day Thomas O'Toole, Vice President of The USGA, said that a possible change to this Rule has been under consideration with the R&A for at least seven years and that there will be continuing talks to modify it, with any change taking place at the start of 2012. It is not often that the USGA/R&A flag upcoming changes to their 4-yearly revisions to the Rules, so it would seem highly likely that there is going to be a change to Rule 18-2b. Here is the relevant excerpt of O’Toole’s address, taken from the transcript of the media day held at Congressional Country Club at Bethesda;
“Suffice it to say that Rule 18(2)(b) is a long-standing Rule that if the ball moves after a player addresses it, the Rules deem that that player has caused that ball to move. I happen to have been a member of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee since 2004, the prior Rules cycle. Glen Nager and I have been members of our joint Rules Committee in this entire rules cycle since 2008, and I can tell you that this subject has been a point of discussion in both Rules cycles. In fact, subject to such approvals that will occur hopefully in the coming months between our USGA Executive Committee and the Royal & Ancient Rules Limited that there is a proposed change to Rule 18(2)(b), which is a new exception under that Rule, which is if it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, then the Rule under 18(2)(b) does not apply. In other words, if some other agency, wind or gravity, was known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied to that player.”
I see this as a very welcome proposed change to the Rules. I have always thought that it was arbitrary that a player can incur a penalty for something that is completely outside of their control. In the meantime, when it is windy or if your ball is lying on a slope of a putting green, remember that you cannot be deemed to have moved your ball without touching it if you have not grounded your club.

The second incident is a little more controversial. On the first play-off hole against Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson was correctly taking relief from a greenside sprinkler. Because his first two drops resulted in his ball rolling down the slope to an invalid position he was entitled to place his ball on the spot where his ball hit the ground on his second drop. Now, take a look at what happened next.



For those receiving this blog by email click here to view the video
Well, what do you think? Was his Simpson’s ball at rest after he placed it the first time? If it was, then he should not have picked it up to place it again and incurred a penalty of one stroke for doing so. Of course, it did not matter as he lost the play-off anyway, but I am sure that there would have been complaints if he had gone on to win. Having viewed the clip several times my impression is that the ball had indeed come to rest after the first placement but did so after settling down into the grass. I suspect that Simpson took a second to realise that his ball was not sitting well and (wrongly) picked-it up again.

Good golfing,




Have you used the search feature at the top right hand corner of my home page? This is a very useful tool that makes it easy to locate previous subjects that you are interested in from over two years of my blogs on the Rules. For example, if you enter “Graeme McDowell” in the search box and click on ‘search’ you will see that he has featured in five of my blog entries. The next time you have a query on the Rules, or are trying to remember an incident on the Tours, use the search box to see if I have covered it.