Congratulations to 26-year-old Tommy Fleetwood, from Southport, England, who came from behind to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last weekend, beating Dustin Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal by one stroke. His play of the final hole provides a useful illustration of how golfers can benefit from using the Rules of Golf to their advantage. Knowing that he probably required a birdie on his 72nd par-5 hole, to either win the title or be involved in a playoff, Fleetwood did not get the start he wanted, as he hooked his drive towards the desert. Fortunately for him, but not the person who was hit, his ball bounced back off a spectator close to a path where it came to rest. Taking a natural stance for the intended stroke meant that his feet would have been on the path, so he was able to take releif under Rule 24-2. He knew that he had to determine the nearest point of relief to where his ball lay where there was no interference from the cart path and then drop a ball so that it hit the course within one club-length of that point. Most of us would imagine this dropping area and drop a ball well within the permitted limit, but Fleetwood was thinking well ahead. He knew that he had to go for the putting green, still about 270 yards away, with his second shot and the lie of his ball was crucial. So he chose to try and drop the ball in a position where it was likely to roll to a position where the path still interfered, or where it would roll nearer to the hole. In either case this would mean re-dropping the ball to comply with the requirements of Rule 20-2c. His reason for dropping the ball at an extreme permitted limit in this way was to take advantage of this part of Rule 20-2c;
If the ball when re-dropped rolls into any position listed above, it must be placed as near as possible to the spot where it first struck a part of the course when re-dropped.
It was reported that after his win Fleetwood explained;
“There were two bits of grass, a nice bit and a bad bit, and I didn’t really want to go to the bad bit. There’s a line that I had to drop it over to make it a legal drop, basically. I can’t drop it when I’m still stood on the path. It just took me a few goes because I was trying to get it right on the edge of it. But yeah, I did actually get a really good drop in the end. It settled nicely and I was never going to not take the shot on.”
My understanding is that the reason that he “took a few goes” is that more than one drop landed outside the tiny patch that he was aiming for within the permitted area, which meant that it did not count towards the drop. There were two valid drops that were within the permitted area, but the ball rolled to a position where there was either interference from the path, or was nearer to the hole, the second of which then became the reference point where he was permitted to place the ball. Because of the accuracy of this valid re-drop he was able to place his ball sitting up on a nice little tuft of grass, almost like a tee, because this is where the ball first hit the course before rolling away. He then used his now defunct Nike 3-wood to hit a beautiful shot to the front of the green and two-putted to make the birdie, which subsequently resulted in him winning the title outright, without need for a playoff.
I have two tips for players that have the option of taking relief under the Rules; first, is not to lift your ball until you have determined exactly where the nearest point of relief is, as the permitted dropping area may be disadvantageous to where the ball is lying; and second, to try and drop your ball in such a way that it will require a re-drop and perhaps subsequent placeing of the ball after a similar re-drop, as this will obviously give you a better lie from which to make your next stroke.
Amateur Golfer Wins Car
Playing in the amateur competition of the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California, last week, Dave Colby had a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole, which won him a brand new Genesis G90 luxury sedan.
For several years the USGA has allowed an amateur to win a valuable prize, such as a car, for making a hole-in-one in a round of golf, without forfeiting their amateur status, but those of us that play golf outside of USA and Mexico only received this exception when the Rules of Amateur Status were changed in this respect from 1st January 2012. Apart from this hole-in-one exception, the most valuable prize that any amateur golfer can win without losing their amateur status is US$750 / St£500, or the local currency equivalent.
Modernisation of the Rules of Golf
You will probably be aware that the Ruling Bodies are considering a major modernisation (simplification?) of the Rules of Golf. I will not be speculating on the unsubstantiated rumours that are arising, as I think that it can only cause confusion; I prefer to spend my time interpreting the Rules as they are, for the benefit of others. However, if you do want an idea of what is being leaked following a presentation made to some European Tour players last week then you can check out this link. I will not be engaging in any communication regarding this subject.
It is time for Committees in the northern hemisphere to start planning for the upcoming season. Why not run a Rules night for your Club or Society? I have done all the work in my 'ready to run' quizzes (General, Juniors and Match Play). More information at this link.
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