Friday, 25 May 2012

Four More Tours Breaches

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There were four, high-profile Rules incidents over the past week; two of them occurring in the same match play semi-final. The most recent one was at Wentworth yesterday when Graeme McDowell was penalised two strokes under Rule 18-2a. A penalty of one stroke for causing his ball to move (fractionally) was increased to the general penalty of two strokes when he failed to replace the ball where it was before he caused it to move (penalty statement under Rule 18). Unfortunately, whilst we can see the ball move in the short video clip above, we cannot see whether McDowell was actually looking at his ball when it moved, as he stood on loose branches a few feet away. For once I salute the TV commentator; Renton Laidlaw, who was spot on in recognizing the breach and immediately suggested, “Another call for one of the army of referees, do you think?” McDowell said that he was not sure whether his ball had moved, but he certainly knows that if there is any doubt the referee should be called. It would have saved him a penalty stroke.

The semi-final of LPGA’s Sybase Match Play Championship threw up two interesting Rules situations. Azahara Munoz (Spain) and Morgan Pressel (USA) had been warned about slow play, even though there were only four players out on the course, and were put on the clock after 11 holes. Ironically, even though Munoz admitted that she had been the slower player of the two until then, it was Pressel who breached the Tour’s slow play guideline by taking 2 minutes and 9 seconds to play her three shots, 39 seconds over the 30-second limit per shot. As she made her putt Pressel thought that she had won the hole to go 3 up with 7 to play, when she was notified that she had lost the hole, due to her breach of Rule 6-7 for slow play. She was therefore only 1 up, Munoz having ‘won’ the hole. One can imagine how this ruling affected Pressel’s disposition and probably contributed to the ensuing controversy on the 15th hole. The American player contended that the Spaniard touched the putting green on her line of putt whilst preparing for her stroke, a breach of Rule 16-1a. The match referee asked officials to review the available videotape of what had happened on the putting green and they reported that they were not able to see any evidence of the Rule being broken. Munoz then made her putt to win the hole and bring the match to all square. Pressel, whose mind must have been frazzled at this stage, bogeyed the next two holes to lose 2 and 1. Azahara Munoz went on to beat Candie Kung in the final and take her first LPGA Tour win.

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The fourth incident of the week did not result in any penalty, but was of interest from a Rules perspective. Brandt Snedeker’s flight from Florida to Spain for the World Match Play Championship was diverted by an on-board emergency. Although he eventually arrived in Malaga his clubs and suitcase did not. They still had not arrived as he stood on the first tee for his match against Thomas Bjorn. He had borrowed a driver from fellow competitor, John Senden, purchased a new putter from the Pro shop and put eight other clubs into a bag. The reason that he did not assemble a full set of 14 clubs was that he was expecting his own clubs to arrive whilst his match was in progress. When that did happen he was aware that he could add up to four more clubs, to a total of 14, as and when he required them. Rule 4-4a;
a. Selection and Addition of Clubs
The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen.
Interestingly, although he could select any 4 clubs from his own set he declined to take the putter, as the one that he had purchased was performing so well for him. Like all good stories this one had a happy ending for Snedeker, as he won his match against Bjorn 5 and 4.

Good golfing,

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Ben said...

Hi Barry,

I bit of a strange one but watching the last round at Wentworth Peter Lawrie hit his second shot from the fairway towards the end of the round. The strange thing was that his FCs ball was in front of his (Lawrie was first to play), perhaps 10 - 20 yards ahead and his divot hit his FCs ball and moved it.

My initial reaction would be that that ball just needs to be replaced and everyone can move on, while Lawrie caused the divot it's still just an outside agency.

Assuming that's correct, what if neither the other player nor his caddie noticed and the shot was played from where the ball ended up (it only moved 4 - 6 inches). If someone then reported that would it be a 2 stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place?


Barry Rhodes said...


One of the principles behind the Rules of Golf is that a player is always entitled to the lie that they had when their ball came to rest. Therefore, in the circumstances that you describe, the player was entitled to replace his ball where it was before the divot removed by Lawrie moved it, Rule 18-1. Obviously the divot could also be removed. There is no penalty for a player causing a fellow competitor's ball to move. Rule 18-4.

Decision 18-1/3 is relevant to the last part of your question;

Q.In stroke play, a player's ball was moved by an outside agency. Neither the player nor his caddie was aware that his ball had been moved, so the player played the ball without replacing it. He then learned that his ball had been moved. What is the ruling?

A.As it was not known or virtually certain that the ball had been moved by an outside agency when the player played the ball, he proceeded properly and incurred no penalty - see the Note to Rule 18-1.