Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Patrick Reed Asked for Three Opinions on a Single Ruling

Patrick Reed has never been one of my favourite tour golfers; he has been involved in numerous controversies including his expulsion from the University of Georgia, apparently following a number of complaints from his golf teammates. His notorious, prickly personality flared up again in an incident during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida last weekend. Reed’s ball was lying in dense undergrowth behind the 11th green and he claimed that there was interference by cables to his stance. Apparently, the first Rules official denied relief and a second official was summoned, although this happened prior to a spectator starting to record the incident. Reed demonstrated to the second official how in his opinion a cable was interfering with his intended stance and the following conversation ensued;

Official: “I think that you would need to take an abnormal stance to try to stand on the cable……You have a tough shot.”
Reed: “Not if I take a 7-iron (indecipherable).” 

Official: “Mmmm.”
Reed: “Let me see if a 7-iron adds more.
Female voice: “Anyone else would get a drop out of there any day of the week.” 

The spectator who was recording the incident on his smart phone and who later posted it on Twitter, claims that this comment was from Reed’s wife, Justine. This is probably correct, as she used to be his caddie and is known to almost always accompany him at these events.

It was then that Reed sarcastically made perhaps his most controversial comment;

Reed: "I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys."

This was presumably in reference to Spieth’s relief for an unplayable lie on his final round of The Open 2017, for a penalty of one stroke, which was a completely different situation. Quite understandably, this seemed to be the last straw for the second official who walked away saying, 

Official: “Patrick, you just play away”. 

This appeared to incense Reed, who then compounded his petulant behaviour by demanding;

Reed: “I want a third opinion…….I’m allowed that……..yeah I do, I do want a THIRD opinion….. from an UNBIASED source.” (my caps).

Wow! If he is looking for opinions, mine is that this is totally unacceptable behaviour from a leading, tour golfer that I hope will be followed up by the PGA Tour (and Jordan Spieth!). I cannot confirm whether Reed did get his demand for a third, official ruling on the incident, which would be unique in my experience, but it seems most unlikely that free relief was permitted, as he double-bogeyed the hole.

The official(s) denied relief to Patrick Reed on the basis of the exception to Rule 24-2, relief from immovable obstructions;

Exception: A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an immovable obstruction makes the stroke clearly impracticable or (b) interference by an immovable obstruction would occur only through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play.

This is a tricky and subjective area of the Rules, which I have previously tried to explain in this blog.

The deciding factor in arriving at a ruling is whether the player would have chosen the same club and stance, and would take on the same shot, if the immovable obstruction was not there.

I am disappointed to have to highlight another instance of a well-known professional golfer showing disrespect to a Rules official. Many tour officials are volunteers and in almost every case they have a far better knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf than the players that they try to assist with their rulings. 

Note: Since writing the first draft of this blog most of the copies of the recorded incident have been removed from golf media sites by the PGA. The video on the original Twitter tweet by @ssteele55 has also been removed. However, at the time of writing the video is still available at this link.

The New Rules of Golf for 2019 
The R&A and the USGA have announced the final changes to the Rules of Golf for 2019. These changes result from their Rules Modernisation Initiative that began in 2012 to bring the Rules up to date to fit the needs of the game today globally. They can be viewed, together with extensive, related resource materials at these links;

Good golfing,

Within a few weeks, I expect to be in a position to update readers with how I plan to continue my mission to assist golfers of all abilities to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. In the meantime, if you are not already receiving these blogs by email, enter your email contact address in the 'Subscribe via email' box at the top right corner of any blog page, so that you do not miss anything.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Information on Rules is not Advice

There was an excellent interaction relating to the Rules of Golf between the Indian, ‘new kid on the block’, Shubhankar Sharma and the ‘veteran’, Phil Mickelson, last Sunday at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship. Together with Tyrrell Hatton, as the three third round leaders, they were in the final group to tee off. Sharma’s ball flew the green at the 5th hole and he found it surrounded by television wires. It seems that Sharma, who currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, may not have been sure whether his relief was from a movable obstruction or an immovable obstruction. Phil Mickelson had no such doubt and helpfully guided him through the process of taking relief from a movable obstruction. You can view the incident at this Golf Channel link

Phil correctly recognised that the wires were easily movable and told Sharma to mark his ball, in case it moved while he was removing the wires, even directing him to move his marker closer, so that the position would be more accurately marked. In fact, it is not necessary to mark a ball whilst removing an obstruction, as Rule 24-2 only requires that if the ball moves while doing so it must be replaced. But marking the ball’s position in this situation is a good practice that all golfers should follow. 

An important point here is that providing information on the Rules does not incur the penalty for giving advice, Definition of Advice. But Decision 8-1/16 provides a caveat;
Q. B's ball was lying badly. B was deliberating what action to take when A, his fellow-competitor, said: "You have no shot at all. If I were you, I would deem the ball unplayable." Was A giving advice, contrary to Rule 8-1?
A. Yes. A's suggestion could have influenced B "in determining his play." Thus, it constituted advice - see Definition of "Advice." It did not constitute "information on the Rules," which is not advice.
I have no doubt that Phil was correct in identifying the interfering cable as a movable obstruction. The Definition states that an obstruction is a movable obstruction if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage, which obviously applied to the cables in this incident, even if they had been trodden down and were partially embedded in the soft earth. Another example of a movable obstruction that is embedded is a water hazard stake, which may be inserted several inches into the ground, but is still easily removable and is therefore a movable obstruction, unless a Local Rule states otherwise.

This is not the first time that Phil Mickelson has shown that he has a good knowledge of the Rules of Golf; if only this applied to all the Pro golfers on Tour.

Good golfing,

If you found this Rules incident and the accompanying video interesting, then I believe that you will enjoy my latest eBook, ‘Pros Getting it Wrong!’, which comprises 99 separate articles on memorable Rules of Golf incidents, most of them relating to golfers competing in Professional Tour events. Each of the wide-ranging articles highlights a breach of a Rule of Golf, with associated nuggets of interesting information, including explanations of the rulings, comments from the players and officials concerned, links to videos showing the circumstance of the breach and the consequences of the penalties imposed. Click here for more information and to order. 

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2018 and may not be copied without permission.