Monday, January 7, 2013

Stop-And-Go, Blow Wind Blow!

                Rickie Fowler will go down in history as the player to begin the 2013 PGA Tour Season – 3 times.  That record may never be broken (unless of course the Tour neglects to move the date of the Hyundai TOC), and thanks to Slugger White I have  wonderful Rules issues to discuss on Week 1 of 2013.

Cancelling a Round

                The PGA Tour was forced to start and cancel two rounds that had started and some were questioning the fairness of that action.  Decision 33-2d/1 gives us guidelines on whether or not a round should be cancelled.  The first sentence of the answer says it all, “There is no hard-and-fast rule.”  Really, there is no way to make a hard-and-fast rule though because the conditions that could warrant cancelling a round can vary so much from course to course.  At Kapalua, the wind is the major factor.  Here on the Monterey Peninsula, fog could be the factor.  In Abu Dhabi, sand storms could be the factor.

                The guideline that the Decision gives is “a round should be canceled only in a case where it would be grossly unfair not to cancel it.  The example given is exactly what occurred at Kapalua, where some players begin play in extremely adverse conditions and others do not have to play in those conditions.  For those who had to play 5-9 holes in terrible wind, they would be at a 5-9 hole disadvantage to those who never had to tee the ball up.  By the book, Slugger White and his crew got this one right – twice. 

Ball Falling Off Tee

                Yesterday’s non-existent round began (or did it?) ominously for Matt Kuchar as the wind blew his ball off of the tee on his first hole.  He called in a Rules Official.  Fortunately, there is a specific Rule that covers this situation, Rule 11-3 (Ball Falling Off Tee).  When a ball is not in play, a ball that falls off a tee or is knocked off the tee when not making a stroke, it may be re-teed, without penalty.  So for all of you who tease your buddies when the nervously tap the ball off the tee at the start of a hole, there’s no penalty and it isn’t, “One!”

                If the ball falls off the tee while you’re making a stroke at it and you whiff, well, then you don’t have a penalty but you have made a stroke.  That could have caused some issues at Kapalua over the last few days.  I, for one, would cherish the opportunity to see professionals whiff like the rest of us.  It only takes 50 MPH gusts to even the field…

                Just to change the facts a little… if you manage to whiff a teed ball and it stays put, and then you accidentally knock it off the tee, you would then be liable to a one-stroke penalty under 18-2a or 18-2b (depending on whether you had addressed the ball) and the ball must be replaced (See Decision 11-3/1).

Ball Moving on the Putting Green

                Now we can finally get this right.  The Kapalua wind is exactly what the new Exception to 18-2b was written for in 2012.  If you address a ball (it need not be on the putting green, it could be anywhere) and the wind causes it to move, you are not penalized and you must play the ball from where it comes to rest.  Gusts of 50 MPH are enough to say with certainty that the wind did in fact, cause the ball to move.  You still need to be careful, however, because if the wind blows the ball back into your putter, you would still be responsible for a one-stroke penalty under Rule 19-2 (Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped by Player, partner, Caddie or Equipment).

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