Friday, September 15, 2017

Ben Crane's 8 Penalty Strokes

                At the Boise Open, Ben Crane received a total of 8 penalty strokes and it had nothing to do with a scorecard mistake. Let’s take a closer look at the situation to see the Rules in action behind it:

The Violation (as a whole)
Crane first noticed that he had left the dot sticker (used to collect TrackMan data) on his driver on the 11th tee, and then later noticed at the 14th hole that he had left the dot sticker also on his 6-iron. Unfortunately, the dot stickers are external attachments and much like adhesive tape (see Decision 4-1/5) they render a club non-conforming when not removed. The good news for Crane, he only carried the non-conforming clubs, he did not use them.

The First Penalty
The penalty in stroke play for carrying, but not using a non-conforming club is two strokes for every hole at which the breach occurred with a maximum penalty of four strokes per round (Rule 4-1). When Crane discovered his driver in breach of the Rules he was between the play of two holes. The penalty statement for Rule 4-1 and 4-2 says a breach discovered between the play of two holes is deemed to have been discovered during play of the next hole, which means Crane was deemed to be in breach of Rule 4-1 for two holes. This resulted in two penalty strokes on his first hole (the 10th hole) AND his second hole (the 11th) for a total of four penalty strokes.  Furthermore, the club in breach of the Rules (his driver) had to be declared out of play for the rest of the round.

The Second Penalty
A few holes later on the 14th hole, Crane discovered that the dot sticker was also still on his 6-iron. This is considered a completely separate violation because of the new discovery.  For those who think this is harsh, look at it this way: when he discovered the dot on his driver he should have ensured that all his clubs were free of the dot stickers.  So Crane incurred two additional penalty strokes in each of his first two holes (the 10th and 11th holes) because those were the first two holes he was in violation. 

And again, he was required to declare the 6-iron out of play for the rest of his round.
So the end result is that Crane incurred a total of 8 penalty strokes that were incurred as two separate four penalty stroke situations and applied to the score card as four separate two-stroke penalties. I still say that may not be the worst of it, because he still had to play the remainder of his round – without a driver and 6-iron.

Crane doesn’t mention having to declare the clubs out of play in his interview, but that is what the Rules require if you ever find yourself in that situation.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Amateur Match Play Fun and Other Commentary

With the close of the Amateur Match Play Championship, the NCGA Championship season is officially over the hump and on the way cruising to our lengthy off-season of December 31-January1. Fortunately, there were no major Rules incidents of note, but I do get to share a video of some of the play during the second 18 of the Championship Match.

The 5th hole at Spyglass Hill is a challenging par 3 with a very uniquely shaped green.  The back right hole location forces anyone who leaves their tee shot short right to come up with a crafty solution to have a reasonable par putt.  Shintaro Ban took wedge out.  While we were standing there, I had a brief discussion with the Referee for the match about reminding Shintaro that he can't strike the flagstick since the stroke is from the putting green.  However, he knew the Rule well and his caddie attended the flagstick without any prompt from the peanut gallery.

I apologize for the sideways video, but my editing techniques are getting rusty...

The Championship match went all the way to the final hole, with Isaiah Salinda narrowly edging out the defending champ Shintaro Ban with a win at the final hole and a 1 up victory.

Throughout the week in my conversations with our many referees, I was reminded that there have been several Rules controversies/situations that have occurred recently that I had not given much commentary on.  So below are some of my comments.

Jordan Spieth at the British Open
I'm sure glad I didn't have to figure this one out on live international television.  Spieth declared his ball unplayable and used his 28b "flagline" option to get the ball to a spot where his TIO relief would move him to the right of the equipment trailers. Great work by the Referee to use the radio and get staff and rover support to make sure the proper relief and reference points were determined.  Yes it took a while, but that ruling was not as simple as just knowing the Rules involved.

Erica Shepherd and the Putt That Wasn't
I had the honor of working the Girls' Junior Championship, but had already headed back home by the time this incident occurred.  The bottom line: always double check with your opponent before moving your ball. For those of you that think there's a sportsmanship element to this - get over it. It is extremely likely that this violation would have been enforced regardless of Shepherd's initial comment that Moon's putt hadn't been conceded. As an aside to those who actually commented negatively to Shepherd on social media, if you're on Twitter trolling a 16-year old because she stated a fact, I think you've got some problems.

The Bunker Liner
Another situation I did not witness, but a player on Tour received free relief for interference from the bunker liner when his ball was not lying well. He was still required to drop in the bunker but it gave him a much better shot at the ball.  The bottom line - that's what the Rule says.  He had interference from an immovable obstruction in the bunker. He was entitled to relief. It pays to know the Rules (or at least enough to ask for help).

Poulter and Virtual Certainty
There was a bit of volume surrounding a ruling with Ian Poulter during the final round of the PGA Championship. I happen to know the Referee involved and I feel for him - because the two players clearly didn't fully understand the concept of virtual certainty and how it applies. Just like Spieth at the British Open, I'm glad I didn't have to figure this one out on international television. More than that, in the end the situation that arose (by finding the original ball outside the hazard after 5 minutes - see Definition of Lost Ball - but before one had been put into play under the water hazard Rule, he had a situation that literally is not fully contemplated by the Rules). CS, I feel for ya.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jon Rahm and the New Decision

            For those who have been following recent Rules events in golf and were watching the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this morning, the result of no penalty for Jon Rahm may seem very confusing.  What happened was really one of the first major instances where a Committee used the “reasonable judgment” standard in the brand-new Decision 34-3/10.
            On an earlier hole, Jon Rahm’s ball came to rest in a position where his ball-marker would have to be placed on top of his fellow-competitor’s ball-marker, so he marked it to the side of the ball, and then spanned the marker one putter-head to the side.  When he spanned the marker back, it appeared fairly clear that he replaced the ball directly in front of his ball-marker, rather than to the side of it as he had originally. He played from the new position and therefore was potentially subject to penalty for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 16-1b (the Rule that allows players to mark & lift the ball on the putting green).
            European Tour Rules Official Andy McFee (apologies if misspelled), pulled Rahm aside to discuss the situation with him. The details of the discussion are no public, but essentially from Rahm’s testimony, McFee determined that Rahm was aware of the awkward marking and used his best judgment to replace the ball in its original spot and was therefore no penalty was applied.  Several months ago, the video evidence would have trumped this testimony, however Decision 34-3/10, introduced after the controversial Lexi Thompson situation at the ANA Inspiration, saved Rahm from penalty.
            Specifically, when referring to this exact type situation the new Decision states, “A ‘reasonable judgment’ standard is applied in evaluating the player’s actions in these situations: so long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted even if later shown to be wrong by the use of video evidence.” [Emphasis Added]
            In order to apply this standard, the Committee must take several factors into consideration to determine whether a player has done what can reasonably be expected. Two of the bullets listed in the Decision as important factors play a key role in the Rahm ruling: 1) the player’s explanation and 2) the amount by which the location was wrong in relation to the type of determination made.  In this case, Rahm stated (according to sources) that he remembered he had marked the ball to the side and specifically remembered trying to get the ball back to the exact spot. While video evidence showed the spot to be probably incorrect, the amount by which it was incorrect was not significant enough to definitively say the player did not meet the reasonable judgment standard.

            To make things more interesting, while Rahm was discussing this ruling with McFee, a spectator had picked up and moved his ball in play in the rough and Rahm was immediately faced with another rules situation. A referee was on site and through Rule 20-3c made sure the ball was replaced properly under the Rules (in this case by dropping).

Friday, May 5, 2017

Casual Water or Loose Impediments: At the Option of the Player

                Last week I had the honor of serving on the Pac-12 Championship Committee for the Men’s championship at Boulder Country Club in Colorado.  I must say it became one of the most unique experiences in officiating I have ever had, and I was also perfectly content to not be the official-in-charge.  Kudos to Jim Moriarty (along with Brad Gregory, Keith Hansen, Missy Jones and the CGA staff that worked Golf Admin hours to get in as many holes as possible) for handling an incredibly difficult set of circumstances, especially with all of us jeering him along…
                The unique circumstance, as many of you witnessed from Golfweek or other national news
outlets, was that we ended up playing in the snow. Eventually, the snow won over and forced Saturday to be a complete day off, but we had “chamber of commerce weather” on Sunday that melted the snow and allowed us to shotgun the players and complete 54 holes.  As we were preparing for that final round and the snow was thawing (see numerous pictures included here), a number of great questions came up from coaches and officials about how to handle the snow.
Using the Sprinklers to Help Thaw the Snow

I Strongly Recommend the Loose Impediments Option

I don't think the heavy stuff's coming down for quite a while, I'd keep playing...

                Fortunately, snow is specifically discussed in the Definitions of the Rules of Golf. Twice, in fact.  Under Casual Water, we see, “Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player.”  The same sentence appears again under Loose Impediments. 
                On the surface, that seems to make our rulings very simple, either take relief under Rule 25-1 or brush the snow away without moving the ball.  And in most cases, it really is that simple.  But as the snow started to thaw and became more patchy, where one patch started and another began became a little more obscured. So let’s look at some of the questions we thought might come up and how we decided to handle them:
Thanks to the great help from BCC Members and staff!

A player brushes away snow before making the decision to treat the snow as casual water:
Unfortunately, once the player treated the snow as loose impediments, the right to take relief for casual water from that same patch of snow went away.  If we permitted the player to treat the same patch of snow in two different manners, nothing would prevent a player from taking casual water relief, but brushing away a circle to drop in a desired spot.

A player takes relief from one snow patch and a separate snow patch interferes at the nearest point of relief:
We had to treat each snow patch as a different “puddle” of casual water. So if a player took relief from one snow patch, we found the nearest point of relief from that specific snow patch. If the player then had interference from a separate snow patch, he would be entitled to take relief from the new snow patch or play the ball as it lies.

A player decides to take casual water relief, then wishes to brush the snow away:
Once the player sees that the nearest point of relief would not be in a desirable spot, the preference became to simply brush the snow away.  So the answer in this scenario depends on whether the player has lifted the ball or not. If the player has not lifted the ball, nothing prevented the player from deciding to treat the snow as loose impediments and brushing it away. If, however, the player had lifted the ball, in order to avoid penalty he had to take complete relief.           

In the end, I can tell you that in the group I walked with on Sunday, we had absolutely zero rulings regarding the snow. But before the round, the possibilities were endless!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lexi Thompson MAJOR Penalty

 Currently happening in the ANA Inspiration we are seeing the first major instance of the application of the new (2016) Exception to Rule 6-6d for signing an incorrect score card. The explanation we are receiving is that Thompson incorrectly replaced her ball on the 17th green during the 3rd round. Rule 16-1b requires the ball to be replaced in the exact same spot. The television evidence revealed that she replaced the ball in a slightly different spot. The penalty for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 16-1b is two strokes. Since she signed her score card without the two stroke penalty and she was completely unaware of the penalty at the time, the Exception to Rule 6-6d kicks in.
   The Exception essentially lessened the previous penalty that would have disqualified the player for signing for an incorrect score card.  Since her incorrect score was the result of failing to include a penalty she was unaware of, she is not disqualified but is assessed the penalty she failed to include (two strokes under Rule 16-1b) and an additional two stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for signing for an incorrect score on the 17th hole.  The result is four total penalty strokes and Thompson is now not leading the the first LPGA major of the season.
   This appears to be an extremely harsh penalty, especially as the result of a video review, but remember that had this occurred in 2015, Thompson would have been disqualified for the incorrect score card.
   On TV it was easily heard that it wasn't intentional, but unfortunately this is not an intent-based Rule. The reality is that she put the ball back in the wrong spot. Was it a significant advantage? No. However, the Rule is written to dissuade the player from the potential advantage that could be gained by replacing the ball in an incorrect position.
    So in summary: On the 17th hole of the third round, Thompson incorrectly replaced her ball on the putting green and as a result played from a wrong place in breach of Rule 16-1b. She signed a score card without that penalty included because she was unaware of it. Since the breach was discovered prior to the close of competition, the Committee is required to apply the Exception to Rule 6-6d which means that they added the two-stroke penalty that wasn't included in her score yesterday, and an additional two-stroke penalty for signing for an incorrect score - a total of four penalty strokes.
   If Thompson comes back and manages to win, it will highlight how extremely significant the new Exception really is, because prior to 2016 she would've been disqualified from the competition for the same situation.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The MGA Quiz Results are Out!

Bravo to the MGA on another wonderful Quiz for 2017. They always manage to find the smallest of holes in the code of the Rules of Golf and rip them open for interesting and unique Rules situations, some of which only have answers based on what your Committee decides. As usual, the combined efforts here on the West Coast were not able to divine the true intent and secret behind all the questions and I would like to review the “incorrect” answers and reasons why:

Our Answer
MGA Answer

4. In stroke play, Player A hits his tee shot, finds a ball he assumes to be his and plays that ball which ends up slightly closer to the hole than Player B’s second shot. As B is preparing to play his third shot, A asks him what club he used to play his second shot. A then realizes he has played a wrong ball. A returns to the area from which he played the wrong ball, finds his original ball after a one minute search, and plays the original ball into the hole in four more strokes. A’s score for the hole is:
A) 6
B) 7
C) 8

First, let’s agree that there are 5 “talent” strokes. So the debate here is between two or four penalty strokes. I will hand this one to the MGA, there is a great debate as to what penalties should stick when committed while playing a wrong ball. We are on one side of the debate, the MGA chose the other and in all honesty it has more support in the Rules. 

Here’s the debate:  Under Rules 3-3 and 20-7c we have a supporting decision 20-7c/5 that refers to “penalty strokes incurred solely by playing the ball Rules not to count.” That decision clarifies that there are certain penalties that do not go away when playing a second ball under 3-3 or 20-7c because the penalty cannot be affiliated with one ball or another. Penalties for practice, advice or playing a wrong ball do not go away even if it seems like the action should be affiliated with one ball over another.

We do not have the same verbiage or decision for when a player plays a wrong ball or plays from outside the teeing ground. There is a faction that believes that the similar philosophy should be applied and penalties for advice or practice should not go away if committed while playing a wrong ball (or playing a ball played from outside the teeing ground). We answered that way.  There is another faction that has those penalties go away because the only verbiage we get “Strokes made by a competitor with a wrong ball do not count in his score.” There is no decision to break the tie here. My argument is that, while we do not get any additional verbiage, what we do have says “strokes made by a competitor.” There is no reference to penalty strokes going away.

So there is no official answer to the question (unless someone on the RoG Committee wants to correct me because a decision has finally been made), but it is a great discussion point.

5. A and B are partners in a four-ball stroke play competition. A’s ball comes to rest in casual water. A’s caddie picks up the ball, hands it to B who places it 3 club-lengths behind the casual water at a spot that keeps the point where the ball lay between the spot where it is placed and the hole. A plays the ball. A incurs:
A) 1 penalty stroke.
B) 2 penalty strokes.
C) 3 penalty strokes.
D) 4 penalty strokes.

I disagree with the answer here, but I know how they got there.  The MGA assessed an additional penalty stroke for the caddie’s unauthorized lifting of the ball. Only 3 people may lift – the player, partner or person authorized by the player. The caddie was not authorized and generally would incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2.  However, we have other applicable circumstances where there is no penalty if another Rule applies that permits the ball to be lifted and played from somewhere else.

Specifically, Decision 26-1/9 tells us there is no penalty for a caddie lifting a ball from a water hazard without authority if it is clear the player will be proceeding under the water hazard Rule.  I believe the general consensus is the same for other Rules that allow the player to play from somewhere else (except for a ball unplayable which has its own Decision and reasoning). However, I grant the MGA that there is nothing in the Rules that states that specifically with regard to casual water or an abnormal ground condition and therefore the answer has technical merit.

6. In a stroke play event, Player A’s approach shot comes to rest on the putting green leaving him with a long 75-foot putt. Player B’s approach shot lands in a greenside bunker. A marks and lifts his ball, then reads his line of putt. B’s bunker shot comes to rest on the putting green, but he still has a 30-foot putt remaining. A reads his line of putt from the other side of the hole while B is cleaning up the bunker. Just as B finishes, A replaces his ball. A putts his ball and it apparently comes to rest, but is overhanging the hole. B, not paying attention, immediately walks up to his ball and putts it. B’s ball not only strikes A’s ball, deflecting it into the hole, but B’s ball follows it in as well. Unsure of how to proceed, the competitor’s agree that since both balls were holed, there is no issue and they proceed to tee off the next hole and complete the stipulated round. They inform the Committee of this situation prior to signing and returning their score cards. The Committee should rule:
A) Both players’ balls are considered holed and there is no penalty.
B) Player A’s ball is considered holed. Player B;s ball is considered holed and he is assessed a two-stroke penalty.
C) Player A is disqualified and Player B’s ball is considered holed and he is assessed a two-stroke penalty.
D) Both players should have replaced their balls and replayed their last strokes. As both players failed to hole out, they are both disqualified.

Here’s one where I say touché. Having the ball overhanging the hole threw us off. The trick is that although Rule 16-2 specifies a time where the Rules deem the ball to be at rest, nothing in that Rule say the ball is not at rest prior to that time limit.  We treated the ball as still moving and then proceeded as if 19-5b applied. Good fluff MGA!

9. In a match play event, a par-3 hole has its teeing ground located immediately behind a water hazard with an island putting green. A player’s tee shot lands on the greenside of the water hazard, rolls backwards, and is lost in the water hazard. He drops correctly under the water hazard rule, keeping the point at which the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard between the hole and the place where he dropped a ball. In so doing he dropped the ball on the teeing ground. Realizing he could have re-teed his ball under the stroke and distance provision of the Rule, he lifts and tees his ball. He plays the teed ball onto the putting green. His first putt strikes his opponent’s ball lying on the putting green. He then completes the hole in one additional stroke. What is his score for the hole?
A) 5
B) 6
C) 7
D) 8

I believe there is some general disagreement in the Rules world about this particular situation. We applied four talent strokes and one penalty stroke under Rule 26-1.  The player essentially lucked out that they first dropped the ball on the teeing ground and they were entitled to put the ball somewhere else on the teeing ground.  But… he did drop the ball and a substituted ball becomes the ball in play when it has been dropped or placed (Rule 20-4). Since he played from the teeing ground next, lifting the ball was really stroke and distance and that’s where the MGA gets the additional penalty stroke. It’s a hard argument here and I’m not sure there is consensus at the highest levels as to whether this situation should be one penalty stroke or two.

24. During an individual stroke play event with the one ball condition in effect, Player A loses his second shot in a water hazard. He borrows a ball from Player B, inadvertently putting a different model ball (improper ball) into play properly under R26 and plays it into the fairway. Player C then points out the violation. Attempting to correct the error, A then goes back and drops a proper ball at the spot from which he had put the improper ball into play. He hits the proper ball into the rough near the improper ball. B suggests that under the one ball condition, A could have replaced the improper ball with a proper ball. A then lifts both the proper ball from the rough and the improper ball from the fairway. He places the proper ball at the spot the improper ball had previously come to rest in the fairway. He hits the proper ball onto the putting green and one-putts. A’s score for the hole is:
A) 8
B) 10
C) 11
D) 12

Well this one is just confusing right? We counted five talent strokes and six penalty strokes (26-1, LR, 27-1 and 18-2). How to get to 12? Well that’s simple… we miscounted. There are 6 talent strokes.  He hit the second shot into the water hazard. 3 played the improper ball. 4 played the proper ball. 5 played to green and 6 one-putted.  Whoops! D is the correct answer without argument here.