Monday, 29 May 2017

Two Rules Incidents at BMW PGA Championship

There were at least two interesting Rules incident at last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, both of which involved South African competitors.

Branden Grace Taking (Unfair?) Relief
After eagling his 12th hole, Branden Grace, was tied for the lead at 6 under when he found his ball plugged in the sand on the upslope of a greenside bunker, giving him a very difficult lie to make any reasonable stroke from. He took a stance, as though preparing for his stroke, shuffling and twisting his feet into the sand. But then he stepped away and called for a Rules official. He told him that when he took his stance his feet were touching the rubber lining to the bunker and that he was claiming free relief from this immovable obstruction, which is permitted by Rule 24-2b(ii). There is no doubt that a player may take relief from an immovable obstruction interfering with their stance, but would the lining have been exposed if Grace had taken his stance with less vigour? In the circumstance, the USGA rules official, Mark Hill, had little option but to permit Grace the free relief by dropping his ball in a more favorable area of the bunker, within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, but there was much criticism from commentators and players, including Paul McGinley, who as he watched the incident unfold said;

“It was ridiculous. If you twist your feet enough you’re bound to eventually reach the bunker lining. That means anytime a player wants relief from a poor lie he can simply twist his feet until he reaches the bunker lining. That can’t be right.”


Quite! I wonder if the official knew that Branden Grace had used the same Rule to obtain a similarly favourable relief 18 months ago. See this blog of mine for details. 


Incidentally, if an official had observed Grace digging into the sand with his feet and judged that he had done so in excess of what was necessary to obtain a firm stance for the intended stroke, he could have penalised him two strokes for a breach of Rule 13-4, as per Decision 13-4/0.5.

(Edit 30th May 2017: There is a video of this incident at this link. I note from this video that the official permitted Grace to smooth the footsteps in the sand that he had previously made in digging-in for his stroke. In my opinion, this should not have been permitted. In any case, having received relief without penalty, the permitted area of drop was within one club-length of the nearest point of relief from the uncovered lining, which was outside of the disturbed area of sand. My opinion is based on part of Decision 13-4/11, though this refers to footsteps made in searching for a ball).

Ernie Els Penalising Himself for Taking (Unfair?) Relief
Another interesting Rules incident happened at Wentworth on the same day, but this time no official was involved. Having reached the rough beside the green with his second stroke on the par-5 12th hole, Ernie Els was unsure as to whether his ball had plugged. Rule 25-2 only provides relief for an embedded ball in a ‘closely mown area’, but as is now the norm in most Pro competitions, the European Tour extends this relief by a Local Rule to ‘through the green’. Els was aware that he was entitled to lift his ball to determine whether it was embedded, which would entitle him to a relief drop, so he correctly announced his intention to his fellow competitors that he was going to mark and lift his ball to examine the lie. He quickly determined that the ball had not been embedded, so relief was not available. The Rules require that the ball must then be replaced with a fellow-competitor being given the opportunity to observe the replacement.

Despite having to chip from the rough, Els made an excellent contact with his ball and watched incredulously as the ball rolled across the green and into the hole for an eagle 3. The interview that he gave after the round explains what happened next;

"I just felt uncomfortable by the way the ball came out. The ball came out way too good, so I felt I didn't quite probably put it (back) exactly where I should have. Under the Rules you try and put it back the way you think it should be, but I still felt uncomfortable with it, so we took a two-shot penalty. I know deep down the ball wasn't quite where it should be and I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

So, it was the fact he made perfect contact with his ball, resulting in his chip shot being holed, that led him to believe that he could not possibly have replaced the ball in exactly the same lie as to where it had been embedded and although no-one else was doubting the replacement, including a European Tour Official, who he consulted after the round, he ultimately felt that the best resolution was for him to self-impose a penalty of two strokes, under Rule 20-7, for playing from a wrong place. Kudos to a great golfer who is also a great example to those of us that love the game.

Coincidentally, at the same time that many were complimenting Ernie Els for his absolute integrity in strictly following the Rules at Wentworth, others were raising questions as to whether Branden Grace had taken an unfair action to take advantage of them.

Good golfing,


 


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8 comments:

Saurav said...

I saw the relief that Grace got on TV and was wondering if it was okay for him to rake the bunker before dropping his ball?

Barry Rhodes said...

Saurav,

There is nothing in Rule 24-2b(ii), which I referred to in my blog, that permits the player to rake the area of their drop when taking the relief without penalty from an immovable obstruction in the bunker.

Barry

Mark W said...

Hey Barry,

could one use decision 24-2b/16 Obstruction Interferes But Ball Unplayable Due to Some Other Condition to not give a free drop?

Richard said...

Hi Barry. I have watched the video from the link on your blog. Personally I believe Grace has built a stance. He then called over the rules official. What would be the procedure if the rules official had assessed that he had breached decision 13-4/0.5
Would the player be allowed to make the stroke from the built stance and be assessed a two stroke penalty or would he have to re-create the area of where he had built the stance as it was originally and then make the stroke.
Thank You
Richard

Barry Rhodes said...

Mark,

I don't think that any Rules Official would have permitted Branden Grace relief in this circumstance, because the ball was unplayable. It clearly was playable, although in a difficult lie.

Barry

Barry Rhodes said...

Richard,

To be fair in this circumstance, I don't think that the official did witness Grace's 'digging in', so he did not have to rule on the possible breach. My understanding is that a player who is penalised for building a stance in a bunker would be permitted to go ahead and play their stroke without having to smooth the built-up stance they had created. In most cases the penalty is imposed after the stroke has been made.

Barry

Kari Lahtinen said...

Hi Barry!

Afa raking is concerned it is my opinion that the player was entitled to rake the footprints as long as it was only for the care of the course. Should he have dropped his ball in such a way that this raked area would then have been in play it would have been a penalty, IMO.

Yours,
Kari

Barry Rhodes said...

Kari,

I agree, a penalty would only be incurred if Branden Grace had dropped his ball, or taken a stance, in an area that he or his caddie had just raked.

Barry