Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Jon Rahm Treads on His Ball

I always find it interesting to find videos of Rules incidents that occur on one of the Pro Tours, as I believe that it is easier for golfers to understand and remember rulings when they see someone they recognise breaching a Rule and being penalised for it. I was pleased to find a video of an incident concerning Spanish Pro, Jon Rahm (Rodriguez), during the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive.

Sometimes a single incident can lead to several different nuances of the Rules of Golf and the subject of this blog provides an excellent example. There is a video of the whole incident at this YouTube link. The circumstance was that on the par-5 8th hole, Rahm’s 17th, he was looking for his ball in deep rough just a couple of paces off the fairway, when he felt his foot touch a ball, which he then identified as his. Whether he trod on it, or touched it with the toe or side of his shoe is not certain, as even he was not sure, if we can believe him. What is pretty certain is that when a player of Rahm’s size ‘touches’ their ball in long grass, the odds are that the ball will not have returned to the exact spot where it was at rest. If a player moves their own ball it is a breach of Rule 18-2 and they get a penalty of one stroke, even if it occurred while they were searching for their ball. 

Knowing that he had touched/moved his ball in play Rahm called over a Rules official. He was clearly unhappy with the marshals on the hole, because he started by saying;
“Nobody was marking where the ball was. I didn’t know .There’s nobody telling me where the ball is.”
Perhaps he thought that this was a factor that might help him get a favourable ruling. If only we all had marshals spotting our balls for us! 
Rahm continued; “I definitely felt I touched it with the top of my foot. I know I touched it. I don’t believe I moved it all,” 
As he was saying this he lifted his leg and pointed to the underside of the sole of his shoe, which indicates to me that it was most likely that he had trodden on it. The official ruled that given the circumstances it was most likely that the ball had moved and Rahm had to accept the penalty of one stroke. 
Rahm said; “Even if I know I didn’t move it.”
But his caddie, Adam Haye, interjected: “You gotta take the penalty.”
Rahm then asked the official; “Can I clean it?”
Surprisingly and disappointingly, the Rules official replied, “No.” 
I will be generous and suggest that he probably knew the Rule, but was caught up in the pressure of the situation; many Rules officials claim that their duties are 95% boredom and 5% panic! Of course, any ball that is lifted under the Rules may be cleaned, except when it has been lifted to determine if it is unfit for play (Rule 5-3), for identification (Rule 12-2), or because it is assisting or interfering with play (Rule 22).

Because Rahm was not sure whether he had moved his ball or not, and the ruling was that he had, he obviously could not then say where it had been at rest before he touched it, so that it could be replaced there. This meant that he had to drop a ball at the estimated spot (Rule 20-3c), which was pointed out to him by the official. 
Rahm then asked, “If it goes forward I replace it?” 

If you haven’t yet viewed the video, I urge you to do so now. (Click here.) Did Rahm decide that he was going to do everything possible to make sure that his ball rolled forward when it was dropped, allowing him to place the ball after the second invalid drop? Rule 20-2 requires that the player must stand erect, hold the ball at shoulder height [not above!] and arm's length and drop it [i.e. straight down!]. A player is penalised if they take any action to influence the position or movement of a ball, Rule 1-2. This includes flicking the fingers, or spinning the ball, to ensure that it bounces forward when it hits the ground. I should emphasise that Rahm was not penalised for any of the above actions, but I know that if I had been the official I would have asked him to drop again.

After two drops that resulted in his ball rolling forward, Rahm was allowed to place his ball where it had first hit the course on the re-drop and he played it from there. Despite the one stroke penalty for accidentally touching his ball in play he managed to par the par-5 hole.

Jon Rahm may find some consolation in the fact that in the New Rules of Golf – 2019, Rule 7.4 states that there is no penalty if the player’s ball is accidentally moved by the player, opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it.

Good golfing,

'666 Questions on the NEW Rules of Golf - 2019' can now be purchased at this link.

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

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

August Miscellany

‘666 Questions on the NEW Rules of Golf – 2019’
Thanks to the 550+ subscribers that have already purchased my new eBook in the first 4 days since I made it available. The reception has been fantastic. For others there is more information and ‘Buy’ buttons at this link.

Limit to Green Reading Materials
The R&A and USGA have recently announced proposed regulations regarding the use of green-reading materials, which are designed to reaffirm the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgement, skill and ability. These regulations are unlikely to affect the vast majority of amateur golfers, but in my opinion are a welcome move to further encourage a quicker pace of play in elite player competitions. Unsurprisingly, an immediate criticism of this announcement has come from StrackaLine, a company that creates custom topography maps of putting greens, who in a telephone conversation with a journalist from Golfweek magazine were reported to have said;

“Putting stats haven’t changed in 25 years, PGA Tour pros are still making about 50 percent of their putts from inside of 8 feet. … There is no exactness in putting.”

I enjoyed this tweeted response from US golf blogger, Geoff Shackelford;

“Which begs the question: if they haven't impacted putting numbers, then what is being sold other than a tool that slows down play, appears to cut down on the importance of local knowledge and experience, while enriching a few?”

Well said!

Disqualified for Using a Damaged Club
In a fit of frustration, South African Pro golfer Lee-Anne Pace, hit her sand wedge against a stake following a poor shot during the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She did not realise that her action had caused damage to the wedge until she used it to make another stroke later in the round. After explaining the circumstances to a Rules official she was disqualified for a breach of this Rule 4-3b;

If, during a stipulated round, a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.
Penalty for Breach of Rule 4-3b: Disqualification.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this incident is that following the change to the new Rules of Golf in January 2019, playing with a damaged club will no longer get a penalty, New Rule 4.1a confirms that, providing a club is conforming when the player commences their round, they may continue to use it, or have it repaired, no matter what the nature or cause of the damage.

This is a sensible and welcome change, because there is certainly no advantage for a player using a damaged club, so in any circumstance similar to that of Lee-Anne Pace it seems obviously unfair that the player should be so harshly penalised (disqualified) for using one. This is a good example of how one of the new Rules will eliminate unnecessary complications and will make perfect sense to most golfers, who for the most part are just looking for Rules that apply in a logical, equitable and easy to remember way.

The Official Guide
The R&A’s Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, effective January 2019, is available to preorder from Amazon.co.uk with a release date of 1st November.

The Official Guide includes The Rules of Golf with Interpretations (previously known as Decisions), Committee Procedures, Model Local Rules and Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities. 

However, at the time of writing, on the Amazon.com web site it appears that the USGA version of the Official Guide will not be released until January 1st, 2019! Of course, I expect that both the R&A and USGA are making plans for the Guide to be available to Club Committees earlier than either of these dates, but neither of the Ruling Bodies have any pre-order facility for any of the New Rules publications on their on-line shops, which seems remiss.

The Oswald Academy
Have you signed up for the free Rules of Golf newsletter from my associate, Brian Oswald of The Oswald Academy? Here is the link. Brian and I are working closely together to ensure that we present our subscribers with the latest information on Rules information and incidents and will be introducing a range of resources over coming weeks to make it easier for golfers to understand, assimilate and learn the new Rules in preparation for January 2019.

Good golfing,

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