Friday, January 18, 2013

Sandy Tiger

                Well it’s been a slow start to the season, at least from a Rules perspective, but I can now thank Mr. Woods for bringing to light a very important rule.  Unfortunately his breach cost him a chance at playing the weekend in Abu Dhabi, but I’m sure he’ll find something else to do…

                During the second round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on the 5th hole, Tiger’s drive landed in an area of sand and vines.  Tiger looked at his ball and believed it was embedded.  He called his fellow-competitor Martin Kaymer to confirm that the ball was indeed embedded.  Tiger proceeded to take relief and played the ball.

                Unfortunately, you are not entitled to relief for a ball that is embedded in sand.  The European Tour and most major golf associations use the Local Rule in Appendix I that allows relief for a ball that is embedded through the green.  The term through the green does include sand by definition, “Through the green is the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course.”  However, the Local Rule providing for relief through the green has an exception: “A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.” 

Sadly for Tiger, a bed of vines is not a closely mown area and therefore he was not entitled to take relief in his situation.  Because the Local Rule did not apply Tiger's lifting of the ball and failure to replace it was a breach of Rule 18-2a for which the penalty is two strokes.  European Tour Chief Referee Andy McFee informed Tiger of this on the 11th tee after confirming the breach on the television recording.  Although it seems clear from his quotes that Tiger did not like the ruling, McFee says he did not question it.  It is easy to understand the confusion, but it is also important to know the Rules.

What is difficult here is to put aside a common myth that golfers are entitled to relief for an embedded ball anywhere except in hazards.  Rule 25-2 only provides relief for an embedded ball in “any closely mown area through the green.”  Basically, only in the fairway or collar of the green.  It takes the Local Rule in Appendix I to allow relief for an embedded ball in rough, or anywhere “through the green.”  The confusion for Tiger is the Exception in the Local Rule, which prohibits relief in sand. And then he missed the cut by one stroke.  Ouch.

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