Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Kevin Stadler Deems Ball in Cholla Unplayable

Here is an interesting question that Kevin Stadler faced on the 11th hole of his final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, Arizona last Sunday. Can you substitute another ball for a ball that you have deemed unplayable, once you have identified it?

I have never seen a cholla bush, but I understand that is a variety of cactus that has spines that can easily attach to clothing, skin, even shoes, with their needle like sharpness. This interesting video, courtesy of PGATOUR, shows that Stadler’s ball was suspended on two of these spines.

Kevin Stadler was within the Rules when he decided to deem his ball unplayable, leave it in the cholla, and drop another ball (not shown in the video clip) for a penalty of one stroke. He took this penalty relief under the Rule 28c option, which reads;
c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
Note that the wording is “a ball”, which means that the player may continue play by substituting another conforming ball, rather than “the ball”, which means that the original ball must be played.

I take issue with the words used by TV broadcaster and ex Pro golfer, David Feherty, after he had spoken to Slugger White, the PGA TOUR VP of Rules and Competition. Towards the end of the clip Feherty says;
“He (Slugger) allowed him to replace (sic, he means ‘substitute’) the ball merely because he didn’t want him to reach in and get something stuck in his hand”
This does not ring true, as I am certain that Slugger White would have known that substitution of a different ball is permitted whenever a player deems their identified ball unplayable. In my opinion, it is far more likely that Feherty misunderstood what was said in his hurry to report back to the viewers.

An interesting footnote to this Rules incident is that Kevin Stadler went on to win his first PGA Tour victory, overtaking the 3rd round leader, Bubba Watson on the 18th green.

Good golfing,

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Mike Reslie said...

Even if Rule 28c did not allow for substitution (which it does) Kevin could most likely have substituted another ball under Rule 5-3 after the appropriate announcement and subsequent inspection by his fellow competitor since it appears that cactus spines were piercing the cover of the ball.

Feherty's misunderstand of Slugger's statement simply reinforces what you said in your last blog regarding the ignorance of the rules by playing and formal professionals.

Barry Rhodes said...


I agree, on both counts!


Unknown said...

Barry, as always a great discussion. However, I must admit that I was anticipating a post from you, but I thought the topic would be on the topic of Bubba's relief from a burrowing animal hole. Perhaps you are planning a post for that topic as well, so I won't labour upon further comment.

Barry Rhodes said...


I did not see the Bubba Watson incident and could not find any photo or video that clearly showed the 'burrowing animal' hole, so any comment from me would have been very subjective. From the reports that I have read and photo that I have seen there is also some doubt that Watson should have been given free relief from the cholla, as there did not seem to have been a 'reasonable stroke' from where his ball lay in the bush. All in all I decided that the facts were not certain enough for me to provide comment on.


Mike Reslie said...


Here is a link to the incident. As you stated it doesn't show the lie but look at the bush. I am no cactus expert either but in my opinion this does not appear to be the same species of cactus. Perhaps given that and the fact that he's left handed he may very well have been able to advance the ball.

The bottom line is that the Rules Official who could put eyes on the ball was convinced and made the call.

And isn't it nice to know that at least on PGA Professional knows the nuances of the rules and how to use them to his advantage.


Barry Rhodes said...

Thanks Mike,

I had seen this link.

I agree that there was a positive side to this incident, in that Bubba knew enough about the Rules to get himself a clear shot, without penalty. I just hope that the Rules official was not intimidated by the circumstances, as can happen.