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.

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