Thursday, April 25, 2013

New on FarbTalk, and Practice Between Holes

   For the avid readers I want to give a quick update as to the happenings on FarbTalk.  I have added updated videos where possible to aid in visualizing past Rules situations.  Feel free to go back and review old articles, or Comment with links to videos that are still missing.

   Found a great article explaining the Tiger ruling from former USGA Director of Rules John Morrissett.  It's on the Erin Hills Facebook page and you can get the link from the Top 10 Tiger Rulings article below.  His is the only other article besides FarbTalk that mentions Committee Error and Decision 34-3/1, and I have to admit it was worded far better.

   For those trying to dig into the Rules and grasp more and more of the intricate concepts, please visit the new Exceptions and Notes page linked on the right hand side.  It will take you through all the Exceptions and Notes in the Rules and explain their significance.

Discussion of the day:  Practice Putting Between Holes

   The discussion came up amongst a few officials this morning, and I think it is important to go over the significance of Note 2 to Rule 7-2.  The Note permits the Committee to prohibit practice putting or rolling a ball on the putting green of the hole last played.  In NCGA events and USGA events the Committee has NOT put this local Rule into effect.  On the PGA Tour, however, the local Rule IS in effect and is on the hard card for all events. 
   I get the question frequently, however, about practicing on the practice putting green between the 9th hole and 10th tee when there is a backup at the turn. The answer is yes, practice putting or chipping on or near any practice putting green between holes during a round is permitted.  Anytime, any event.  The Committee is not allowed to prohibit practice putting or chipping on or near any practice putting green or the teeing ground of the next hole (hence the game "poison" enjoyed by many juniors).
   There is an unwritten understanding on the Tour, however, that in general players will not practice putting between holes on a practice putting green either.  Do not mistake this for the Rule, or for a local Rule put in effect.  The PGA Tour hard card is in accordance with USGA Rules and only prohibits practice putting on the putting green of the hole last played. 
   This has also arisen during collegiate events that I have run, because the Local Rule is on the NCAA/GCAA hard card as well.  Much to some coaches' and players' surprise I permit players to practice on a practice putting green while waiting at the turn.  I've been confronted with, "the hard card prohibits this! They can't practice putting between holes!"  And I always respond, "On the putting green of the hole last played.  Practice putting on any practice putting green is always permitted between holes so long as it does not unduly delay play."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wind at Harbour Town!

  On the sixth putting green, we witnessed the new Exception to Rule 18-2b in action.  We may remember that Webb Simpson was previously penalized under this Rule before the new Exception was in place.  This time, however, the Rules change absolved Simpson from penalty.
    Simpson had replaced the ball and briefly addressed it.  Before stepping into the putt, he saw the ball start to move and then roll a few feet from its original position.  The Exception to Rule 18-2b absolved Simpson from penalty because it was known that he did not move the ball, but the wind had.  He was required to play the ball from where it came to rest and he did.  We may see more of this Rule as the day progresses, and other players may or may not be so clearly absolved.  It must be known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move in order to apply the Exception.  Gravity in and of itself would not be a significant reason to apply the Exception.
   For more clarification on the Exception to Rule 18-2b see Decision 18-2b/11.

When Do I Mark the Ball?

            Rule 20-1 states that when a ball is to be lifted under the Rules, “The position of the ball must be marked before it is lifted under a Rule that requires it to be replaced.  If it is not marked, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced.”  There are many instances in the Rules where this applies, and a player who fails to mark his ball will incur this “procedural” penalty.  There are also many instances, however, where this Rule is not applicable and the player is not required to mark the ball.  To look further into this, it will be helpful to review permissible methods of marking the ball, the Rules that require the ball to be marked before lifting it, and several Rules that do not require the ball to be marked prior to lifting it.  Remember, if you are ever in doubt, you are never penalized for marking the ball (without lifting it) even if it is not required.

Marking the Golf Ball

            Under the Note to Rule 20-1 we are told that the position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball.  It’s important to remember that this is a should and a player is not penalized if he accurately marks the ball using some other method, or does so in front of or to the side of the ball, so long as the ball is replaced in the correct spot.  Decision 20-1/16 gives us several other examples of acceptable methods for marking the golf ball, including placing the toe of the club next to the ball, using a tee, using a loose impediment or even scratching a line provided that nothing is done to test the surface or indicate a line for putting.  Note that these are acceptable methods but are not recommended.
            The Decision also tells us what is unacceptable.  A player cannot mark the position of the ball with reference to an existing mark on the green, even if that mark is directly behind or underneath the ball.  It also tells us how to handle moving the ball or ball-marker to the side as to avoid interference on another player’s line of play or putt. 
            I’ve had players and officials ask whether the marker must first be placed prior to moving it one clubhead or club-length to the side and the answer is no.  The only thing that is recommended (again a should), is that whatever procedure the player uses, that procedure should be reversed to replace the ball.  So if you mark the ball with your putter head, you may directly move the ball one clubhead to the side and then mark the ball.  In returning it to its previous position, you should replace the ball, then move it back the one clubhead.

Rules Requiring the Ball to be Replaced

            There are really only a handful of situations where the player is required to replace the ball, and therefore must mark it prior to lifting.
            Under Rule 5-3, if a player believes his ball may be unfit for play, he may lift it to determine if it is unfit.  The ball must be marked and if it is not unfit, it must be replaced.  The player would incur one penalty stroke under Rule 5-3 if he fails to mark the ball prior to lifting it, even if the ball is unfit for play.  The reason for this, is that even though that specific ball might not be replaced, the substituted ball must be replaced on the exact spot.  Therefore, the ball must be marked prior to lifting even if it is determined that the ball is unfit for play.  The specific procedural clause means the penalty is under Rule 5-3 and not 20-1.
            Under Rule 12-2 you may lift your ball in order to identify it.  Since the ball must be replaced if it is your ball, it must be marked prior to lifting it.  An important note here, is that if the ball is not yours it does not have to be replaced, and therefore if you fail to mark it when the ball turns out not to be your own, there would be no penalty.  If a player fails to mark it and it is your ball, he would be penalized one stroke under Rule 12-2.  The penalty occurs under Rule 12-2 and not 20-1 because there is a specific procedural clause within the Rule. 
            Rule 16-1b permits the player to lift the ball and clean it when it lies on the putting green.  Since the ball must be replaced, if a player fails to mark the ball he would incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 20-1.
            Under Rules 22-1 and 22-2, a ball may be lifted if it may assist or interfere with another player’s stroke.  Since the ball must be replaced, if a player fails to mark the ball prior to lifting it he would incur the penalty stroke under Rule 20-1.
            Decision 20-1/0.7 permits the player to lift the ball to determine the application of a Rule.  There will be certain situations where it is not clear whether a player is entitled to relief.  This may occur for an abnormal ground condition, an embedded ball or even a potential obstruction.  The Decision permits the player to lift the ball in order to determine whether relief is available.  Since the player may potentially have to replace the ball, it must be marked prior to lifting it.  If he fails to do so, he would incur one penalty stroke under Rule 20-1.

Rules Not Requiring a Mark

            There are countless situations where the ball will not return to the original position and therefore it does not need to be marked prior to lifting it.
            Rule 24 covers relief situations for movable and immovable obstructions.  In these situations, the ball will not be returning to the original spot and there is no penalty for lifting the ball without marking it.  It would be a good idea, however, to mark its position for several reasons: 1) if the ball lies on a movable obstruction, the player will be dropping the ball on the spot directly underneath the obstruction once it is removed.  It would be helpful to know where that spot is or; 2) when determining the nearest point of relief under Rule 24-2b, it is helpful to know where the ball originally lay because the NPR must not be any closer to the hole than that spot.
            Rules 25-1 and 25-3 cover relief for abnormal ground conditions or a wrong putting green.  When taking relief, the ball will not return to its original position and therefore there is no requirement to mark it.  Again, however, it is useful to mark it so that in determining the NPR a player does not pick an NPR closer to the hole than the original spot.
            Rule 26 covers relief situations for a ball in a water hazard.  Frequently, the ball lies in a pond or stream or other watercourse and it is impossible to retrieve the ball let alone mark it.  But even when the ball is readily available, there is no requirement to mark it.  This Rule permits substitution and the ball will be dropped in a different spot than where it originally lay.
            Rule 28 covers relief options for a ball unplayable.  Like Rule 26, the ball will not return to the original spot and another ball may be substituted, even if the original is easily recoverable.  It would be useful to mark the original spot when operating under options b or c because the original spot is the reference point for relief, but there is no penalty for not doing so.
            A specific situation where it is useful to mark the position of the ball, but is not required is a ball leaning against a rake in or near a bunker.  Under Rule 24-1 the rake may be removed and if the ball moves it must be replaced.  Since it may not move, there is no requirement to mark the ball, however, if it does, having it marked will help get the ball back to the original spot.  If you do mark the ball in this situation, do not lift it.  This Rule does not permit the player to lift the ball since there is no penalty if the ball moves when the obstruction is removed.  If a player lifts the ball in this situation he would incur one penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a and the ball must be replaced.
            As a general Rule for officials, when making a ruling under one of these Rules, I have the player leave the original ball in place.  I do this because if a player does lift the ball and then does not take relief, he would incur one penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a and the ball must be replaced.

            So if the ball is going back to its original spot, or might go back to its original spot, mark it.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oops! Double Hit Chip

            Sure enough as soon as I tune into the LPGA Lotte Championship at Ko’olina, something happens.  Hee Kyung Seo called a Rules Official over to determine whether she had double hit the ball.  From the video replay it appears she struck the ground moving the ball first, and then may have again hit the ball in motion right afterward.
            The penalty for double-hitting a golf ball is one stroke and the original stroke counts.  The ball must be played as it lies (where it came to rest).  Seo hesitated and called in a Rules official because she was not quite sure if she was supposed to continue or replace the ball.
            There was some argument whether or not hitting the ground first and then the ball counts as a double hit.  The answer is yes.  Decision 14-4/3 states, “Even though the club itself did not initially strike the ball, the ball was put into motion due to the stroke; therefore, Rule 14-4 applies.”
          ( As a side note, had Seo not recognized the double-hit and eventually signed her score card without the one-stroke penalty, THIS would be a situation where Decision 33-7/4.5 could apply.  If it were not plausible for the player to know she had double hit the ball and only video replay showed that she did, the Committee could assign the one stroke penalty after she signs her score card without disqualifying her for not including the penalty in her score.)
            I like how the LPGA is handling this.  Rather than making the ruling right on the spot, they’re taking the time to go back to the TV trailer and review the footage.  If there is any doubt, it will likely be resolved against the player. 
Final Ruling:
  After reviewing the video evidence, LPGA official Brad Alexander and the crew ruled that Seo had not double hit the ball and was not subject to a one-stroke penalty under Rule 14-4 (nor was she in breach of Rule 14-1 by spooning the ball as was briefly discussed by the commentators).  The previous discussion is relevant though.  
   While she did strike the ground first and then after that, the golf ball, this instance differs from the situation above in Decision 14-4/3.  In Seo's case, she struck the ground first, but that initial strike of the ground did not put the ball into motion.  It is only after the club bounces and strikes the ball that her ball first moves, and there was no conclusive evidence that the club struck the ball a second time after that.  It's a good ruling and it happened because they took the time to review the evidence, and obtained second opinions.  We don't always have television to assist with difficult situations like this, but we always have the option of using the radio to get a second opinion, to confirm a ruling or just to get another set of eyes and ears on a situation.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Top 10 Tiger Rulings

            Amidst the controversy surrounding last week’s ruling that depending on whom you talk to, either went dramatically in favor of or against Tiger Woods, let’s take a look back over the years of various rules situations that have involved the world’s number one.

10.            Whoops! Stevie Drops 9-iron into the Water

During the 2006 Ryder Cup, Steve Williams was dipping his towel into the water to get it wet.  He was also holding onto the 9-iron Tiger had previously used.  In one of the funnier Rules incidents of the recent past, he accidentally drops it into the water, well out of reach. 

Decision 4-3/10 tells us that a player is not entitled to replace a club that has been lost during the round.  Because Tiger had started with 14 clubs, he was not permitted to add another club to replace it either.  If he had done so he would have been in breach of Rule 4-4a for selecting 15 clubs for play during his round and would have been subject to a two-stroke penalty for each hole he carried the additional club. 

As it goes, he played on without the 9-iron, which was eventually returned to him by a zealous fan and he won the match against Robert Karlsson 3 & 2.

9.            Tiger in a Tree

Earlier this year during the third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Tiger managed to get his ball stuck in a palm tree after his tee shot on the 17th hole.  When Tiger’s ball ended in the tree, if he could not identify it himself he had only one option – return to the tee under penalty of stroke and distance under Rule 27-1.  By definition if the ball is not identified as his within 5 minutes, the original ball is lost and he must proceed under Rule 27-1.  (Note also, under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable – he is not required to identify the ball if he proceeds under Rule 28a, which is proceeding under stroke and distance). 
            If he could identify the ball as his, he would be permitted to drop the ball under Rule 28c using the point on the ground directly beneath where the ball lay in the tree as the reference point for taking relief (see Decision 28/11).
            Tiger used binoculars to identify the golf ball, which is permissible even if he didn’t retrieve the golf ball (see Decision 27/14).  Because he identified the ball he was entitled to declare the ball unplayable and proceed under Rule 28c, dropping a ball within two club-lengths of the spot on the ground directly underneath the ball in the tree under penalty of one stroke. He made bogey on 17, but ended the day with a four-stroke lead going into the final round.

8.            The (Im)movable Cables

            During the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoutsie, Tiger’s ball on the 10th hole came to rest on top of some television cables.  Cables are typically considered movable obstructions.  Since his ball came to rest on top of them, he was entitled to proceed under Rule 24-1 by lifting the ball, removing the cables and dropping the ball on the spot directly underneath where it originally lay without penalty.
            The Rules Official with the group ruled that it would be impracticable for Tiger to remove the cables and gave Tiger relief for an Immovable obstruction.  He had Tiger proceed under Rule 24-2b by dropping within one club-length of his nearest point of relief.  This gave Tiger a much better lie and an option in the area he could drop in.
            A TV reporter later moved the cables without much effort and complained to the R & A that the Official had ruled incorrectly.  The R & A sided with their official and that was the end of that.

7.            Pace of Play

            During the final round of the 2009 WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, Tiger and Padraig Harrington were having a spectacular battle for the title.  According to officials, they were 13 minutes behind pace on the 12th hole and then come the 16th, they were 17 minutes behind the group in front of them.  Official John Paramor told Tiger and Padraig they were being timed and Padraig proceeded to triple bogey the hole, rushing his approach and chip shot around the green.
            No penalties were assessed for slow play, but there is still some question whether Tiger was fined for his post-round criticism of Paramor.  He, rather politely actually, stated it was shame that Paramor intervened in such a great back-and-forth.  The Tour announced they would fine Tiger for the criticism and then Tiger later said the Tour would not fine him.  Who knows what actually occurred.
            It’s worth noting that it seems John Paramor – Chief Rules Official for the European Tour – seems to be the only men’s Tour official willing to actually act on pace of play issues.  He penalized George Coetzee during the final round of an European Tour event last month and more recently has been unfairly demonized as the official who gave 14-year old Tianlang Guan a one stroke pace of play penalty during the second round of the Masters.  As far as I’m concerned, keep up the good work, just make sure you give the penalties consistently…

6.            Where’d It Go?

            During the second round of the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, Tiger hit his tee shot wayward on the par-5 5th hole.  When they got to the spot where the ball should have been, it was nowhere to be found.  PGA Tour VP of Rules and Competitions and the Official in charge of the competition, Mark Russell, was on site with Tiger and began gathering facts.
            He asked if anyone had seen the ball, and after a slight pause, one spectator spoke up and said he had seen the ball drop straight down from the trees into a little bit of a clearing.  He said that spectators had rushed around the ball and then quickly dispersed. When they had dispersed the ball was gone.
            Based on this information, Russell ruled that he was virtually certain that an outside agency (spectator) had stolen and moved the golf ball and Rule 18-1 applied.  Tiger was allowed to substitute a ball (Note 1 to Rule 18 permits a player to substitute a ball when the original is not immediately recoverable) and drop it as near as possible to the spot the witness alleged that it originally lay (see Rule 20-3c).  There was some hullaballoo about Tiger getting a good break on the ruling and that the ball should have been considered lost.  Perhaps.  Or perhaps the testimony from the spectator was accurate and Tiger was in fact entitled to the drop.  I’ll go with the latter.

5.            Roof Jumping

On the 9th hole during the 2009 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Tiger’s approach took a hard bounce and in clear sight of television cameras ended up on the Firestone clubhouse roof.  By definition, since the clubhouse was not defined as out of bounds, it was actually an immovable obstruction.  Based on television, spectator and other eye-witness testimony, it was known that the ball had come to rest on the roof of the clubhouse.  Because it was known that the ball, which had not officially been found, was in the limits of the obstruction, Tiger was entitled to free relief in accordance with Rule 24-3. 
They determined the point where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the obstruction (clubhouse) and the ball was deemed to lie at that point.  Tiger could then drop within one club-length of his nearest point of relief.  Coincidentally, Tiger then had interference from the grandstands, which were temporary immovable obstructions.  Because a player may obtain relief for interference on his line of play from a TIO, Tiger was then able to get relief to a perfectly clear shot to the green.
Many felt that it was a bad ruling and that the clubhouse should have been marked as out of bounds.  As an official, I think that is accurate, but the bottom line is that it was not.  The clubhouse was not out of bounds, and Tiger was absolutely entitled to the relief he received because of that.  Time to remember that the Rules are here to help, not penalize.

4.            Sandy Tiger

                            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.

3.            The Infamous Drop – Part 1

            There is no doubt that this ruling belongs on any Tiger Ruling top ten list.  In fact, this is going to take up two spots on my list.  One will go for the ruling itself, and the second for the blundering way it was handled.
            On the 15th hole during the second round of the 2013 Masters, Tiger’s approach rattled off the flagstick and into the water hazard.  He took a drop, proceeding as we found out, under what was a hybrid of 26-1a and 26-1b.  At the time, only several keen eyes noticed something might be wrong with the drop, and one of those sets of eyes called in.
            Tiger then made a monumental misstep announcing that he had purposely dropped two yards (it turned out to be closer to 2-3 feet) behind the initial spot. Tiger was assessed a two-stroke penalty the following morning, despite the fact that he had failed to include the penalty on his score card for which he had signed and returned.  The discussion surrounding this is still ongoing.

2.            The Infamous Drop – Part 2

            The Masters Committee has explained the ruling thusly:  The Committee was notified of a potential breach by a viewer prior to Tiger completing his round.  They reviewed the footage and ruled that there was no breach.  Because of this review they decided not to discuss the drop with Tiger prior to returning his score card.  After his post-round comments, they called Tiger in on Saturday morning to review the situation and invoked Rule 33-7 to waive the disqualification penalty he would have been subject to.  Their reasoning, is that it was their own monumental mistake not to discuss the situation with Tiger prior to returning his card. As it was their duty to bring the potential infraction to his attention at that time and they failed in that duty, they felt it was appropriate to waive the disqualification penalty and assess the appropriate two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 26-1a. 
            In the news, this handling of Rule 33-7 has turned the actual Rule into a joke.  Kendra Graham provided possibly the best explanation in an article you can find on  In my own article I argue that using 33-7 was incorrect.  My argument is that the Committee was simply correcting an incorrect ruling, and assessing the penalty once they discovered that they had erred.  Decision 34-3/1 permits this action.  The argument against me is that most rulings where 34-3/1 would apply involve actually talking to the player.  I can see both points of view. For another opinion supporting 34-3/1 see also former USGA Director of Rules John Morrissett's post at Erin Hill's Facebook page
            My issue is that, while 33-7 is intentionally broad and ultimately up to Committee discretion, the Decisions we do have that give guidance on how to use it (see the second half of Decision 33-7/4.5, the first half is not applicable), tell us that 33-7 should not be used in this situation.  The Committee, however, is always entitled to correct an incorrect ruling provided that the competition has not closed.
            Ultimately what should be taken from this situation is: 
1)    If any doubt arises as to the correctness of the player’s score card (see Decision 6-6d/5) or to a player’s procedure TALK TO THEM AT SCORING.
2)   The Committee is always right.  Agree or disagree, the Masters Committee made a ruling.  The more I study it, the more I am comfortable with the ruling itself, I’m just not comfortable with how they got there.
3)   Rule 33-7 is not a new Rule.  It has been around since 1952 and should be used sparingly.  This year’s ruling was an incredibly unique situation.  Argued in the right manner (as Kendra Graham does), 33-7 was used appropriately.  Argued in the right manner (as I and several others do) 33-7 was not used as it should have been.  Ultimately it is the Committee’s decision, and the Committee’s decision is final (Rule 34-3).

1.            Tiger’s Boulder

            Anyone who has ever studied the Rules remembers Tiger’s boulder.  After hitting his tee shot into the desert on the par-5 13th hole at the TPC of Scottsdale during the final round of the 1999 Phoenix Open, his ball was directly behind an extremely large rock.
            Tiger started looking at the rock and testing it a little.  It was determined that the rock was not embedded and was therefore a loose impediment (see Decision 23-1/2).  He then enlisted the help of spectators and others to help move the rock out of the way, also permissible within the Rules (see Decision 23-1/2).  Ken Venturi in the TV booth was going what can only be called “nuts” that Tiger was being permitted to do this.
            As you will hear in Rules School, however, the Decisions that permitted these actions had been in place long before Tiger ever had that boulder moved.  Decision 23-1/2 tells us that stones of any size that are not solidly embedded are loose impediments and may be removed so long as the removal does not unduly delay play.  Decision 23-1/3 permits a p[layer to receive assistance in removing a large loose impediment from spectators, caddies, fellow-competitors or others.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Remember Brian Davis?

First, I want to give the appropriate credit to PGATOUR.Com for the nice video they did highlighting this Rules event. 

But also, as we see Brian Davis yet again atop the leaderboard at Harbour Town, we have to remember one of the more honorable moments in golf history. 

Facing Jim Furyk in a sudden-death playoff for what would be his first PGA Tour victory at the 2010 RBC Heritage, Davis found the water hazard left of the putting green.  The Official, Slugger White (VP of Rules and Competitions for the PGA Tour), reminded Davis to be wary of the reeds.  After making the stroke, Davis noted that he may have moved one of the reeds and had Slugger confirm that via the TV footage.  He had touched the reed during his backswing.  One thing we don't see is that immediately following that, they had to determine whether or not the reed was in fact loose, or if it were still attached and growing.  Because the reed was loose, Davis incurred a two-stroke penalty.

The penalty incurred is under Rule 13-4c.  A player must not touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard when his ball lies in the same hazard.  It was important to determine whether the reed was loose or whether it was still attached, because the Note to Rule 13-4 permits the player to touch any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing in a hazard.  If it were still attached it would be considered growing, and he would not have been subject to penalty.  However, because the reed was loose, it was by definition a loose impediment and Rule 13-4c applied.

Let's hope that if Davis can keep his momentum through the weekend that he manages to steer clear of that fateful hazard and doesn't have to worry about any stray reeds this year.  He is still looking for that elusive first PGA Tour victory despite 5 runner-up finishes.

Decision of the Day - 34-1b/6

Without throwing anyone under the bus, this Decision is important to remember for any Committee that happens to make a mistake affecting the result of the competition.  The kind of Committee error made in this instance, must be corrected and may involve some very difficult phone calls.

Decision 34-1b/6 - Winner's Score Not Posted Due to Committee Error

Q. In a stroke-play event, the winner's prize was awarded to B.  The next day A advises the Committee that he had reutrned a lower score than B.  A check reveals that A is correct and that, in error, the Committee had failed to post A's score.  What should be done?

A.  Rule 34-1b does not apply to Committee errors of this kind.  The prize should be retrieved from B and given to A, the rightful winner.

For the faithful readers, whether you've followed me from the beginning or just recently discovered my blog you should know I am constantly updating the site.  I am always looking for videos or footage of Rules incidents, even if I've already written and posted the article.  Please go back and check out one update to Rulings from Masters Past thanks to a dutiful reader.  There may also be videos added to other articles you've viewed, so feel free to flip back through the Archive on the left hand side.

I've also recently added a new Page titled Exceptions and Notes.  This page highlights the Exceptions and Notes found throughout the Rules of Golf and puts them into categories.  If you're studying for a Rules exam or just trying to get a better grasp of the Rules of Golf, this is a great place to find good information.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Decision of the Day - 18-2b/4

It's rare that I get a ruling in a Zone competition that strikes me as very interesting in the overall scheme of things, but we had a ruling where the following decision was directly applicable:

18-2b/4 - Ball Moves After Player Grounds Club Short Distance Behind Ball But Before Grounding Club Immediately Behind Ball

Q.  A Player's routine prior to making a stroke is as follows: he first grounds the club a short distance behind, but not immediately behind the ball.  Then, he places the clubhead immediately behind the ball and makes the stroke.
  If the ball moves after he grounds the club a short distance behind, but before he grounds it immediately behind the ball, does he incur a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving After Address)?

A.  No.  A player has not addressed the ball until he has palced the clubhead immediately in front of or behind the ball - see Definition of "Addressing the Ball."
  However, it is a question o fact to be resolved by reference to all available evidence whether the player in fact caused the ball at rest to move.  If the player did so, he incurs a one stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a and must replace his ball.  otherwise, the ball must be played from its new location without penalty unless another Rule applies.  (Revised)

In the case we had yesterday, we had reports the ball had moved after the first gounding (not addressed) and that the player had replaced the ball to the original location.  We had to determine whether or not he caused the ball to move.  If he did, it was a one stroke penalty.  If he didn't, he would be penalized two strokes under Rule 18-2a because he lifted his ball in play and did not replace it as he would have been required to play the ball from the new location.  As it turned out, the player had simply re-marked the ball at the new location and replaced it again at the new location.  In speaking with the player, we determined he had not caused the initial movement and therefore had proceeded in accordance with the Rules without penalty.

This Decision falls in line with the USGA/R&A Clarification on "Addressing the Ball" which states that the player has grounded his club immediately behind the ball when it has been grounded in a place customary for a player prior to making the stroke.  The initial grounding is not the player's customary position for addressing the ball, but the later grounding is.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Decision of the Day - 6-6d/5

I know we're moving on and bathing in Adam Scott's incredible victory, but I was flipping through and for obvious reasons feel the need to post a Decision of the Day:

6-6d/5 - Spectators Allege Competitor's Score Incorrect

"Q. All strokes played by A at the 18th hole were observed by spectators, but when the card was returned the recorded score for that hole was lower than that which the spectators alleged had been taken.  What should the Committee do?

A. If any doubt arises as to the correctness of a card, the Committee should consult with the competitor and marker and also take into account the testimony of other witnesses.
   If the evidence indicates that the recorded score for the 18th hole was lower than actually taken, the Committee should disqualify A (Rule 6-6d).  Otherwise, no penalty should be applied." (Emphasis added)

And that's my final word on that subject...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

67th Western Intercollegiate - Day 2 and Wrap-Up

            What an amazing day!  How about that tournament down in Augusta?  If you’re reading this article you’re certainly enough of a golf fan to have watched the Masters today.  SPOILER ALERT for anyone who is watching on DVR:  the anchored slam is complete.  It was a very strange week in Rules at the Masters, and because I can’t handle talking about it much more, I’m going to leave my previous article as my standing position on “DropGate.” 
            Across the country on another Alister MacKenzie golf course, another high quality event was being played:  the 67th Annual Western Intercollegiate.  We saw history in the making today, as the California Golden Bears overcame a 9 stroke deficit to win their 9th event of the year by 13 strokes.  What’s even more impressive is that their number 3 player, Michael Weaver, didn’t play.  He spent the weekend back at that tournament in Augusta after missing the cut with rounds of 78-74. (That came out wrong, did I mention he was playing in the Masters itself?)  I’ll let the fantastic Golfweek writers that were present cover the event itself – I’m here to talk about the Rules.
            You can review yesterday’s notable Rules situations in my previous article.  Today we had two types of infractions in three notable situations.

Read the Local Rules!

            Several years ago a problem started developing with players hitting their drives up or down the fairways of the 11th and 12th holes, endangering oncoming groups and slowing the pace of play in the process.  Without going into severe detail, a large lateral water hazard separates the two holes and in order to solve this problem, we got a recommendation from the USGA on an internal out of bounds.  We implemented this local rule successfully last year and kept it in place this year. 
            In order to successfully implement the local rule, we had to place white stakes on both sides of the hazard to define the internal out of bounds.  In the play of the 11th hole, the white stakes on the 12th hole are boundary stakes and the white stakes on the 11th hole are immovable obstructions.  This goes the same but vice versa while playing the 12th hole.  Essentially all you need to know is the player cannot move those stakes because they are fixed (either as out of bounds stakes or as immovable obstructions).  It is that status as fixed that is key.
            Unfortunately, one player did not read the local rules or did not listen to the briefing from his coach telling him that he cannot move those white stakes.  So while playing the 11th hole, one player did move the white stake because it interfered with his swing.  He would have been entitled to relief from the immovable obstruction (it was a stake defining the OB for hole 12), but he was not entitled to remove the stake.  Decision 13-2/15 explains that if a player removes an immovable obstruction the player has breached Rule 13-2 and is subject to the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play).  In this case the player was penalized two strokes and went on to make an 8 on the hole.

Ahem…Signing for a Score Lower than Actually Made

            There were two disqualifications today.  The first player we discovered prior to the close of the competition and so the DQ was quite unceremonious.  The head coach came in and asked to look at the card in question, saw that the player had signed for a score lower than actually taken and announced the player was disqualified. 
            The second disqualification happened after the close of the competition.  After the competition closed?  Yes, exactly.  The Exception to Rule 34-1b clearly states that the Committee MUST impose a penalty of disqualification after the competition is closed if a competitor: (iii) returned a score for any hole lower than actually taken (Rule 6-6d) for any reason other than failure to include a penalty that, before the competition closed, he did not know he had incurred.

(Oh, by the way, it would absolutely not be appropriate in any way for the Committee to use Rule 33-7 to waive the disqualification penalty in these circumstances…either…)

Because this second disqualification happened after the close of the competition it changed the result of the competition and may actually impact some rankings.  Please, check your score card carefully and make sure the hole-by-hole scores are correct and not just the total.  The Committee is responsible for the total (Rule 33-5) and the player is responsible for the hole-by-hole (Rule 6-6d).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

67th Western Intercollegiate - Day 1

                This post won’t nearly be in high demand as the last, but there is another tournament going on this weekend besides that one down in my old stomping grounds of Georgia…
            Today was the first day of the 67th annual Western Intercollegiate, known as the oldest collegiate event west of the Mississippi at famed Pasatiempo Golf Course, also known as the last home of the architect of that course the pros are playing on this weekend.  Today was the 36 hole day, where the players play 36 consecutive holes in a shotgun start.  It’s always tough, and the wind in the afternoon made it even tougher.  But I’m not going to talk about the battle at the top between #1 ranked Cal and 5th ranked UCLA, the leaderboard does the talking for them.  I’m interested in the rulings that happened out on the course.

Double Obstruction

            My first ruling of the day came early, just long of the 10th hole.  There is a split-rail fence near the road that is not an obstruction.  You can see in the pictures below, the ball came to rest directly underneath the fence and the player clearly was entitled to relief.  Because of a local rule that made the road and fence one obstruction, the nearest point of relief was going to be on the grass left of the fence.  The only issue with that is the player would have to stand on a cart path (which was a separate obstruction) or play off of it if he dropped there.  I explained that relief from the cart path would then take him back underneath the fence, and by Decision 1-4/8 at that point we would go to the nearest point of relief for both obstructions which would be in dirt and tufts of grass left of the cart path.
            The player decided to try and drop in the small area of grass he had that would be within his legal dropping area.  His first drop bounced and hit his leg.  That required a re-drop under Rule 20-2a with no limit to how many times he could re-drop (meaning it was a “no drop”).  The next drop did not land in the legal dropping area.  He was required to correct the error by dropping again under Rule 20-6.  The next drop bounced and again hit his leg (unlimited re-drop under Rule 20-2a).  The next drop landed in the dropping area but rolled closer to the hole than his nearest point of relief.  That required a re-drop under Rule 20-2c, but at least this one counted.  For the scoreboard that’s 1 good drop so far.  Drop 5 did not land in the dropping area, he had to correct the mistake under Rule 20-6.  Drop 6 bounced and hit his leg for the third time, again requiring a re-drop.  Drop 7 finally landed within the dropping area and did not roll closer to the hole.  Even better for the player it stayed on the grass and he was able to get a clean shot on it.  I don’t need to go into the fact that it came to rest where he had interference from a sprinkler head and had to take relief again…

Giving Us the Turn-Around

            I soon was called to the 1st hole which is lined on the left hand side by a large driving range net.  The posts of the driving range net define out of bounds.  This player’s ball came to rest precariously close to being out of bounds.  In fact, if we’d drawn a string from post to post it’s possible the ball was out but by my eye and the other official with me, part of the ball was touching the course so it was not out of bounds.  Next to the ball was a large cable-wire running from the top of the driving range post to about a yard in bounds and right of the player’s ball.  I asked the player what shot he would play if the cable were not there.  After discussing with his coach, he stated the most reasonable shot for him to play would be to punch out diagonally backwards.  He took his stance for that stroke, it was definitely reasonable, and he had interference from the cable.  Decision 24-2b/17 tells us that if a player has interference from an obstruction for an abnormal stroke, and the abnormal stroke is reasonable under the circumstances that the player is entitled to relief.  So I gave him relief.
            That same decision also tells us that the player could then turn around and play a normal stroke and if he then has interference from the obstruction he would be entitled to relief again.  The player turned around for a normal stroke and had interference.  So I gave him relief.  By sheer dumb luck, the player was entitled to relief that moved him completely away from a boundary net and gave him a decent escape route from a sticky situation.  If this sounds fishy see Decision 24-2b/6 which tells is that it is perfectly fine if a player incidentally gets relief from a boundary fence when taking relief from an obstruction.  I’m telling you, the Rules really are here to help…

Drop the Ball – Fido

            The fun ruling of the day was unfortunately not mine, but one of our other officials on the 6th hole (next to Dr. MacKenzie’s old home).  Before a player was able to play his shot from the fairway, a dog ran out and stole his ball!  They gave chase for a bit and finally got the ball back from the dog.  In this situation Rule 18-1 applies.  There is no penalty for the outside agency moving the ball and the ball had to be replaced.  Because they knew the exact spot to replace the ball, the player simply had to replace it on the spot and there was no need to turn to Rule 20-3c.

Pace of Play – Again

            Let’s put it this way, we have an 88 player field, playing in groups of 4 in a 36 hole shotgun, on a difficult golf course.  The final time was an average of about 5 hours and 20 minutes per round, which in the grand scheme of things was actually pretty solid.  It would’ve been quicker had the wind not started blowing 20-25 mph.
            Several groups were put on the clock throughout the day, pretty much only in the first round.  In the group I ended up timing, I issued two official warnings for bad times.  One player took 45 seconds over a tee shot and another took 56 seconds over a putt.  This doesn’t sound horrendous but I am also fairly generous about when I start the stopwatch so when a player gets a bad time, it was a bad time.  What I found interesting is that notifying the players they were out of position and behind pace only quickened their step slightly.  Issuing the official warnings was like jumpstarting a speed-bike.  They were back on time within a hole of the warnings.
            So how about Tianlang Guan?  The policy in effect at the Western is very similar to the policy that penalized Guan.  A player has 40 seconds to play a stroke once their group is out of position and behind time.  According to the reports, Guan was warned about slow play on the 12th and 16th holes before he received a penalty on the 17th.  I don’t know the exact policy, but either the players are given two warnings or he was first warned that the group was out of position and would be timed on the 12th and then had a bad time and an official warning on the 16th.  Either way, he had two chances to play a little more quickly. 
            Could the argument be made that it was a poor application of the policy?  Perhaps.  I think Morgan Pressel had a stronger argument.  Bottom line is that the Rule is the Rule and Guan took it exactly that way.  For the way he handled it that kid should be highly praised and I wish him the best for years to come.  The only thing I want now is for that policy to be enforced regularly.  The only way to speed up play is to actually enforce the policy.

What in the World Happened With Tiger at the Masters???

 So we all have now heard at least a little something about the Tiger Woods situation.  I want to go over the facts as they have been given, and the development of the ruling.  I also want to clarify some mistakes that have been pushed through the press as well as the mockery of the Rules the Masters Committee is making...

First, what did Tiger do wrong?  When taking his drop on the 15th hole he had four options: 1) he could play the ball as it lies.  That was clearly not feasible so he could 2) use the dropping zone provided as an additional option under Rule 26-1.  He didn't like the area of the drop zone, so he could 3) drop a ball on a point directly in line with the hole and where the ball last crossed the margin of the flagstick, with no limit to how far back the ball is dropped.  He didn't like the angle for that approach, so 4) he could proceed under stroke and distance by playing a ball from as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.  He chose this option, officially Rule 26-1a.  But, as he stated in the interview, he intentionally dropped a few yards, or a few feet behind the original spot for a better yardage.  There's our breach.

While "as nearly as possible" is a deliberately ambiguous phrase, purposely dropping several feet or yards away from the spot is not "as nearly as possible."  He was required to correct the drop under Rule 20-6, and when he played it, he had played from a wrong place in breach of Rule 26-1a and incurred a two stroke penalty.  He did not include that two stroke penalty (by the way all the networks saying it was a one stroke penalty were wrong) in his score.

When this was discovered, the Rules of Golf would normally say that Tiger had signed for a score lower than he had actually received and was subject to Disqualification since the competition had not closed.

The Masters Committee decided to give him the two stroke penalty and waive the DQ penalty citing Rule 33-7.  That would be fine and dandy except that Decision 33-7/4.5 specifically states, "The Committee would NOT be justified in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d (signing for a score lower than actually made) if the competitor's failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the competitor could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card."  In plain English, the Masters Committee's reasoning for using Rule 33-7 is WRONG.

HOWEVER, the explanation given by Chairman Fred Ridley would make sense...under a different Rule.  The explanation given is that the Committee had reviewed the drop and had deemed there was no breach prior to Tiger returning his score card.  Because they felt there was no breach, they did not talk to Tiger about it.  After being contacted by CBS after Tiger's interview, the went back to review the situation again.  The then contacted and spoke with Tiger early this morning and decided that there was in fact a breach and they assessed the appropriate two stroke penalty.

The appropriate term for this is "Committee Error."  If you look at Decision 34-3/1, the Committee is entitled to correct an incorrect ruling in stroke play provided the competition has not closed.  They may do so by either rescinding an incorrectly assessed penalty or assessing a penalty not previously given.  That is exactly what they did in this case, but the explanations given have been very poor in terms of the Rules of Golf.

This is a situation where we may never know what exactly happened with the Masters Committee behind closed doors, whether they had made a decision regarding the drop prior to Tiger returning his card, or whether they did whatever they could to keep Tiger in the event.  What frustrates me is that there are some brilliant Rules minds working the Masters, but they are not the decision makers.  Ultimately, the Masters Committee can do whatever they want with their tournament, but if this were Merion in a couple months this would have gone one of two ways: 1)the USGA would never have let Tiger leave the scoring area before talking about that drop or 2) Tiger would be on his way back to Florida.

Frankly, the Committee should admit they made a mistake, chalk it up to Committee error and be done with it.  Or, what really should have happened, is that a unilateral decision on his drop should not have been made without first asking the player what he was doing.  Then they could have properly assessed the penalty yesterday without the controversy.

Oh by the way, John Paramour from the European Tour assessed the 14-year old a one stroke pace of play penalty.  My thought:  he was warned twice and then given the penalty, and then the final pace of play for the day was near 6 hours.  Ouch.  I'm glad Guan made the cut.  On the other hand, Paramour is the official who issued a pace of play penalty to a pro on the Euro Tour just two or three weeks ago (see previous article).  Maybe he was being consistent.  More on Guan later.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Masters Week: Rulings from Masters Past

                Certainly it’s been done before, but I want to take a look back at some notable Rules Incidents that have occurred in the past at the Masters.  I’ll save the best for last as there are at least two rulings that directly led to a change in the Rules. 
            The week of the Masters is very interesting in the Rules world.  All the members of the Rules of Golf Committee are typically invited to work the event and frequently this is when they will have their yearly meeting, whether formally or informally.  What comes from this meeting of the minds is never immediately known, as the decisions will be processed and sent back to the respective internal (PGA, USGA, R & A) Committees before anything is announced.  What also happens though, is that if a major rules incident occurs at the Masters, all the decision makers are present in order to confer and decide upon a reasonable solution that is usually implements more quickly than other Rules changes (some of this is conjecture based on observation).  What is interesting about the Masters, is that ultimately the Masters Rules Committee will make the final call and they’ve been known to bend a little more than, say, the U.S. Open Rules Committee.  We’ll start with those situations:

2004 Ernie Els:  Ernie Els hooked his tee shot on the dogleg 13th hole well into the woods and into a pile of branches that had been blown down from a previous storm.  The Rules Official assigned to the group ruled that Els was not entitled to relief and that the branches were not ground under repair.  Els asked for a second opinion which he got from the Chairman of the Masters Rules Committee.  As any Augusta National member would know, nothing at Augusta is out of place at any time.  Those branches had to be piled for removal the Chairman ruled, and therefore it was ground under repair and Els was entitled to relief.  The situation still required a stellar recovery shot to get out of the woods and Els obliged.

2009 Rory McIlroy:  Ccertainly one of the more interesting incidents because of the penalty that didn’t happen.  On one occasion, McIlroy made a stroke from the bunker and failed to extricate the ball.  He then kicked the area where he was standing.  As Decision 13-4/0.5 tells us, kicking the sand is not something covered under the Exceptions to Rule 13-4 and if that’s what he was doing, McIlroy needed to be penalized two strokes.
            McIlroy explained, however, that he wasn’t kicking the sand, but smoothing the sand over his footprints, albeit a bit angrily.  In 2008, Exception 2 did not yet have the clause about for the sole purpose of caring for the course, however it did permit the player to smooth sand and soil so long as it did not breach Rule 13-2 with relation to his next stroke.  According to David Price, the Committee reviewed several videos of Rory in previous bunkers and he had, in fact, smoothed the sand with his foot in a similar, albeit more friendly, manner.  They ruled that he had not breached Rule 13-4.

            Because Masters Week is so special to all of us the golf world, naturally there are some penalties or rules incidents that you wish you could take back.  Of the next two examples, one was purely heart-breaking and will forever be an example for young golfers to remember when signing their scorecard.  The second, actually involves a childhood friend/opponent of mine and it solidified his reputation as one of the good guys in golf.  A well-deserved reputation I might add.

1968 Roberto DeVicenzo:  “What a stupid I am,” he said after the final verdict was issued.  On the 17th hole of the final round, DeVicenzo had made a wonderful birdie and had launched himself into a tie for the lead with Bob Goalby.  His finishing par ensured a playoff, he thought.  His marker, however, had put down a 4 for the 17th hole and DeVicnezo failed to see the mistake prior to signing and returning his scorecard.  The penalty for such a mistake, is that he was stuck with the higher score and missed out on the playoff by one stroke to Bob Goalby, who sadly is one of the least remembered Masters Champions because of how DeVicenzo lost.

2008 Michael Thompson:  The 15th green in 2008 was a catalyst for change.  Thompson wasn’t the victim that pushed the USGA and R&A over the edge, but the incident welcomed him into our living rooms and gained him millions of fans.  During the second round, Thompson stood over a makeable and much-needed birdie putt.  He was within reach of making the cut as an amateur, having qualified for the Masters through his runner-up finish in the U.S. Amateur the summer before at Olympic Club.  And then his ball started oscillating.  He knew the rule, he knew to be careful.  He backed away, let the wind settle, and stepped in.  He grounded his putter, took one last look at the hole and then – it happened.  The Titleist logo on his ball was askew.  Fellow-Competitor Ben Crenshaw tried to convince him nothing had happened, but Michael knew.  He called the penalty on himself and replaced the ball to the correct position. He missed the putt and then bogeyed 16 and 17 as well.  Thompson missed the cut by four strokes.

            And finally, there’s the controversy.  As I said at the beginning, things that happen at the Masters provoke change.  Two of these incidents led directly to Rules changes in the following revision.  One is a mystery that may never be solved.


1958 Arnold Palmer:  During the final round Arnold was playing with Ken Venturi when Palmer’s tee shot on the 12th hole plugged in turf behind the green.  Palmer believed that he was entitled to relief, something Venturi agreed with but the walking Rules Official said no.  Angrily, Palmer hacked his ball out of the plugged lie and made 5 with his original ball.  Still angry, Palmer announced that he would play a second ball (in accordance with Rule 11-5, now known as 3-3) with which he would take proper relief.  In 1958, Rule 11-5 was not terribly different from the current version of Rule 3-3.  It still stipulated that the player must announce his intent to proceed under the Rule before playing a stroke with either ball.  The verbiage in the 1958 Rules of Golf also states the second ball will count if the competitor fails to announce which ball he would like to count, rather than the original.  This is where the story diverges.

            Venturi is adamant that Palmer played that second ball incorrectly as he did not announce his intent prior to playing the original.  Even under the 1958 Rule 11-5, this would mean the second ball could not count.  Palmer claims he mentioned a second ball to the official when first discussing the situation and at a time when Venturi would not have been able to hear the conversation.  Palmer claims the official would not grant him relief, nor permit him to play a second ball.  The Committee at the 15th hole told them the ruling that Palmer’s second ball, with which he had scored a 3, would count.  Palmer went on to win his first Masters.

2003 Jeff Maggert:  During the final round of the 2003 Masters, Jeff Maggert found the bunker on the treacherous short par-4 3rd hole.  When he tried to play out of the bunker, however, the ball bounced off the lip and back in Maggert.  This falls under Rule 19-2 Ball in Motion Stopped or Deflected by Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment.  In 2003, the penalty under 19-2 was two strokes which turned Maggert’s bogey into a triple.  He wasn’t completely derailed until a disasterous 8 on the par-3 12th hole later in the round that effectively ended his title chances. 

            In 2008, the Rules of Golf softened the penalty for Rule 19-2 to one stroke, using that incident as a catalyst for deciding that two strokes was too harsh for the situation.  Why didn’t they change it in 2004?  Well, most likely the Rules changes that happened in 2004 had already been decided and were just being finalized at or around the 2003 Masters.  If the 2003 Masters was the first time the conversation changed to think of softening the penalty, there would have been no chance to go through all the proper channels to make the change in time for 2004.

2008 Padraig Harrington:  The video may be used in Rules seminars for decades to come, or at least until they finally get rid of 18-2b and the definition of addressing the ball and just make us say you moved it or you didn’t.  Padraig addresses his ball on the 15th green, then backs away. The wind picks up and he steps in again.  He then backs away as the wind clearly moves the ball, blowing it several inches from its original position.

            In 2008, as we saw before, this was a one-stroke penalty and the ball had to be replaced, regardless of the fact that the ball was clearly moved by the wind and not by addressing the ball.  Harrington became a sort of poster child for the change that went into effect in 2012, the Exception to Rule 18-2b which now exempts the player in that situation if it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move.

2007 Phil Mickelson: A reader pointed out that there was another important ruling involving Phil Mickelson in 2007. Thank you Nigel for the reminder and leg work to find the videos.  Late in the afternoon, Phil used his large staff bag to provide shade over the golf ball, thereby reducing the distraction of moving shadows from patrons.  The Chairman of the Masters Rules Committee again stepped in and ruled the next day that there was no Rules breach.  In 2008, Decision 14-2/2.5 was introduced making this action specifically a breach of Rule 14-2 and thus a two-stroke penalty.


            So as we go deeper into golf’s Holy Week, keep the Rules in mind, because if something happens that is news this week, it might just change in 2016…