There were a few hasty, uninformed comments about Zach Johnson incurring a penalty at the Humana Challenge last Sunday. Apparently, he was seen on camera brushing the grass on the fringe of the green from where he was preparing to chip. One person that was watching this on TV was US Solheim Cup golfer, Christina Kim, who tweeted;
Fortunately, someone must have put her right because a little while later she tweeted;
Not quite an apology to the unfortunate Zach Johnson, who obviously knows the Rules better that the ebullient Christina.
Her confusion probably arose from a misunderstanding of where a player may and may not test the surface. Most players know that they may not test the condition of a hazard (Rule 13-4a) or the surface of a putting green (Rule 16-1d), but there is nothing in the Rules to stop a player testing the surface through the green, providing that in doing so they do not improve the lie of their ball, their area of intended stance, or line of play (Rule 13-2). I have not been able to view this incident, but it is certain that Zach Johnson’s ball was on the fringe of the green and it likely that he was feeling the direction of the grain of the grass a few feet away from his ball. Apparently, his hand motions, lightly brushing the grass, were parallel to his intended line of pitch.
Today, as I was writing about the above incident, I was informed that Rory McIlroy had just incurred a penalty of two strokes for brushing sand off the fringe of the putting green of the 9th hole in Abu Dhabi. His ball was close to a bunker, a few feet away from the putting surface and he clearly bent down and brushed sand away from his intended line of putt. The Rules are clear; through the green players are permitted to brush the grass to remove grass cuttings and other loose impediments from around their ball, even on their line of play, but they are only permitted to brush away loose soil or sand that lie on the putting green. The reason for this is that the Definition of Loose Impediments states that sand and loose soils are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere. A Rules lesson learned the hard way for Rory!
I heard Sky Sports commentator, David Livingstone, speculate that the sand that Rory brushed away was probably there as a result of the bunker stroke that his other fellow competitor, Tiger Woods, had just made. I very much doubt that this was the case, because if it was Rory would have been unjustly penalised by the referee. Decision 13-2/8.5 states;
Q.A's ball is on the apron between the green and a bunker. A's partner, opponent or fellow-competitor (B) plays from the bunker and deposits sand on and around A's ball. Is A entitled to any relief?It’s not just professional golfers that need to brush up on their Rules, professional commentators should try to do so as well!
A.Yes. A is entitled to the lie and line of play he had when his ball came to rest. Accordingly, in equity (Rule 1-4), he is entitled to remove the sand deposited by B's stroke and lift his ball and clean it, without penalty.
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