Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fog Horn!

                Weather once again is helping to break my Rules writer’s block as we are in the midst of a weather delay at the Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.  More specifically, fog has descended upon the historic municipal venue, to the point where player’s can not see more than 30 yards according to PGA Tour VP of Rules and Competitions Mark Russell.

                The day started by delaying play for about 3 hours, as fog did not allow players to begin their 3rd round.  The Tour eventually decided to take a chance and get play started.  Six players in all made a stroke before play was again suspended.  Only the grouping of John Mallinger, Robert Garrigus and Hunter Mahan managed to complete a hole, and only because they elected to do so after play was again suspended.

                This situation is a perfect time to review Rule 6-8 which covers discontinuing, suspending and resuming play.  The Rule is broken into four subsections: a) When [suspending play is] permitted; b) Procedure when play is suspended by Committee; c) Lifting ball when play discontinued; and d) Procedure when play resumed.  For this article we’ll discuss what to do when the Committee suspends play as they have for the fog.

                6-8b tell us when play is suspended by the Committee, how you may proceed depends on where you are in the course of a hole.  If play is suspended while your entire group is between the play of two holes, you must not resume play or continue until the Committee orders the resumption of play.  If any player in your grouping has begun the play of a hole, provided you do so without delay, the entire group may then proceed to complete the hole.  This is exactly what Malliner, Garrigus and Mahan did.  Because play was not being suspended for a dangerous situation, they to complete the hole and resume play on the 11th tee (their second hole of the round) when the Committee orders play to be resumed.  Chez Reavie, Boo Weekly and Mike Weir, who had also begun their round and were in the middle of a hole, used their option to discontinue play immediately.

                Since the Committee suspended play, Reavie, Weekly and Weir were permitted to lift their balls without penalty (but not required to).  They were required to mark the position of the ball, and typically players would do so more extensively than they would on the putting green (i.e using multiple tees surrounding the position of the ball as opposed to a small coin).  Finding the place where the ball was at rest is important for resuming play.

                When the PGA Tour decides to resume play, whether that happens today or tomorrow, Mallinger, Garrigus and Mahan will resume play simply by putting a ball into play from the 11th teeing ground.  Reavie, Weekly and Weir, however, will follow the procedure laid out in 6-8d.

                That procedure will vary depending on whether they lifted the ball, or if they did, if they are able to find where the ball was marked.  If the ball was lifted, the player must place the original or a substituted ball on the original spot.  If the ball wasn’t lifted and it’s still in the same place, the player may lift, clean and replace the ball or substitute a ball.  If the ball or the ball-marker is moved while play is discontinued, a ball or ball-marker must be placed on the spot from which the original ball or ball-marker was removed.  If, however, the spot where the ball is to be placed is impossible to determine, that spot must be estimated and the ball placed on the estimated spot.   Because play is being resumed, the provisions of Rule 20-3c do not apply, meaning the player will not drop the ball on the estimated spot but will place the ball.

                There are lots of variables when discussing discontinuing play.  For example, had this week’s event been suspended for a dangerous situation, Mahan’s group would not have been permitted to complete the play of the hole.  In fact, a player would be disqualified if he made a stroke after play was discontinued for a dangerous situation.  As it is, the group will start at the 11th hole without penalty…eventually.

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