Wednesday, 4 September 2013

R&A’s Rules Summary for 2013 Open

This shot of Thomas Bjorn hit a TV camera, breaking the screen

As with last year, The Royal & Ancient has released some limited information relating to rulings made over the four days of play at the Open Championship, which was held at Muirfield, Scotland, in July.

There were 234 rulings given by the Rules officials (approximately 70 of them), compared to 339 at Lytham last year. This significant reduction was mainly due to the fact that last year there was a significant number of rulings relating to relief from casual water (58) and ground under repair (48) on a course that had experienced abnormal amounts of summer rain.

Here are a few comparative numbers, with last year’s rulings in red;

Unplayable ball: 18 (32)
Identifying ball: 17 (7)
Interference by movable obstructions such as cables: 20 (12)
Relief from immovable obstructions such as sprinkler heads: 29 (16)
Slow play: 1 (Hideki Matsuyama): (0)
Again I am surprised at the number of seemingly simple rulings where Rules officials obviously had to get involved. Being charitable, I would suggest that much of this is due to players’ paranoia that their every move is being scrutinized by millions of armchair officials. However, I am not sure that is the whole truth; for four years now I have been blogging on simple Rules breaches incurred by tournament professionals (and their caddies), when they should definitely have known better.

The R&A summary featured two interesting rub of the green incidents, the first of which was to the player’s disadvantage, the second to their advantage. I think they are worth quoting, as rub of the green is a golfing term that is often misunderstood and/or misused.

“Thomas Bjorn had a smashing start to his first round of The 2013 Open Championship, when he found the rough with his tee shot. In playing his second from the rough, he managed to hit the ball into a TV camera, breaking its screen.

TV cameras positioned on the course are outside agencies so when a player’s ball in motion is deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green and there is no penalty. The ball is then played as it lies (Rule 19-1).”

“Luke Donald’s third shot at the 9th hole during the first round benefitted from a rub of the green when the Englishman’s pulled approach shot first hit the top of the boundary wall before hitting the hospitality complex situated beyond the boundary and ricocheting back in bounds to the front of the green, allowing him to get up and down for a regulation par 5.”
An even more fortuitous rub of the green was caught on camera at The Barclays last week, when Scott Brown’s ball bounced off a narrow, water hazard foot-bridge and came to rest close to the flagstick. His errant drive and tap-in putt for eagle on the par-4 16th hole can be viewed at this YouTube link.

Returning to the R&A’s 2013 Open rulings summary, there was an explanation of an incident that caught out several TV viewers who thought that Graham McDowell had incurred a penalty for playing from the wrong place. I was not watching at the time, but apparently he was shown marking his ball to one side because it was interfering with Tiger Wood’s putt. When it was his turn to putt he replaced his ball at the marker and putted out from this spot. This is the relevant part of the explanation provided by an R&A spokesperson, as to why no penalty was incurred;

“It therefore appeared that McDowell had putted out from a wrong place (in breach of Rule 20-7). However, what was not shown on camera was the fact that Tiger Woods had asked McDowell to mark his ball and move the ball-marker to the side as it was interfering with his first putt. When Tiger’s first putt finished short of the hole, it was still his turn to play. But now McDowell’s ball-marker, in its moved position, was interfering with Tiger’s next putt. Woods asked McDowell to replace it back to his original spot so he could putt out. McDowell did this and was filmed doing so. He actually returned the ball-marker to its original position and eventually replaced the ball and putted out from the correct place.”
Good golfing,

Carry around my eBook, '999 Updated Rules of Golf 2012-2015', on a smart phone, tablet, or laptop. Open it up whenever you have a few minutes to spend and enjoy yourself while learning the Rules. Click here.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the tours have gone in the wrong direction by making more and more officials available to the players. This encourages the player to call for an official ruling even for elementary situations, which contributes to slow play.

Instead, the tours could identify certain rules or situations that an official could not rule upon so players would be required to make their own determinations. Cart path relief is one that comes to mind.

Barry Rhodes said...


A radical suggestion, but I don't disagree!