Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Like Situations Treated Alike" - Where the Ball Lies

            After a Rules presentation yesterday for Walnut Creek Men’s Club, one of the members asked me a general question about philosophy behind the Rules.  He was trying to figure out why if any part of the ball touches a hazard, it’s in the hazard, yet the ball must be completely out of bounds in order to be out of bounds.  So I re-framed his view:  if any part of the ball touches the course, it is on the course.  After that it all became clear.
            It made what I had already known even clearer, that the fundamental principle “like things are treated alike,” does not just apply to equity, but it applies throughout the Rules of Golf.  It led me to a general principle that I will elaborate on – the ball rests on the smallest part of the course that it touches.
            The Rules of Golf word this philosophy differently depending on which Definition you are reading, so let’s go through the applicable definitions or Rules one by one.

The Teeing Ground
A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.
You could also word it this way: “A ball is inside the teeing ground when any part of it touches the teeing ground.”  Just like a ball out of bounds, the Rules tell us when a ball is inside an area by describing when it is outside the area.  This also fits with the general principle stated above because the teeing ground is the smaller of two parts of the course the ball could be touching.  If the ball is half in and half out of the teeing ground, it is touching the teeing ground and through the green.  Through the green is the larger of the two parts of the course.  Since the ball touches both, it lies on the smaller of the two parts of the course.

Out of Bounds
A ball is out of bounds when all of it lies out of bounds.
The phrase makes more sense when worded: “A ball is on the course when any part of it touches the course.”  Considering that the entire world is off the course, and only the defined boundaries are the area of the course, when the ball is touching both out of bounds and the course, it is lying on the smaller of the two areas – the course.

A ball is in a bunker when it lies in or any part of it touches the bunker.
With rare exceptions as seen below, if a ball is touching a bunker and another part of the course, the bunker is the smaller part of the course and therefore the ball lies in the bunker.

The Putting Green
A ball is on the putting green when any part of it touches the putting green.
This phrasing makes sense, especially in the context of our new principle.  If a ball is touching both the putting green and another part of the course, the other part of the course is likely to be through the green.  Through the green is a much larger area than the putting green, therefore the ball lies on the smaller of the two areas – the putting green.

Water Hazard and Lateral Water Hazard
A ball is in a [lateral] water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.
There will be two exceptions to this later, but if a ball is touching both a water hazard and another part of the course, the other part of the course is likely to be through the green.  Through the green is a larger area than an individual water hazard, therefore the ball lies in the smaller of the two areas – the water hazard.

Casual Water and Ground Under Repair
A ball is in casual water [ground under repair] when it lies in or any part of it touches the casual water [ground under repair].
These are two conditions that can occur on various part of the course, but with rare exceptions they are always smaller than the part of the course on which they lie.  For example, a ball that touches both a bunker and casual water is in the casual water, the smaller of the two areas.  In this case, however, the ball still also lies in the bunker and a specific Rule governs the player’s options (Rule 25-1b(ii)).


Decision 26/1.5 - When a ball touches both a water hazard and another part of the course, it lies in the water hazard.  In this case, the putting green or bunker may be smaller than the water hazard, but in this case the ball touches the water hazard so it lies in the water hazard.

Large Water Hazards – Occasionally, a water hazard will actually be larger than the other part of the course the ball is touching (like the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach).  In this case the ball is still lying in the water hazard even though the other part of the course may be smaller.

A Ball Above the Lip of the Hole – Perhaps this is an exception because the Hole is not technically a “part of the course" (teeing ground, through the green, hazards, putting green), but it is worth mention here anyway.  A ball that is within the circumference of the hole, but all of it is not below the level of the hole is not holed.  So even though the ball is touching the hole which is smaller than the putting green, it is not considered holed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Caddie Responsibilities

     After yesterday's public shouting from Bubba Watson at his caddie, I think it may be time to review the responsibilities of a caddie and what he can and can't do under the Rules of Golf.  There are several Rules that relate directly to the caddie and are important for every looper to know before stepping up for a player in a competition.

Rule 6-1. Rules
The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules.  During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.

     We saw this clearly a few months ago when Stacy Lewis' caddie tested the condition of a hazard in breach of Rule 13-4 by twisting his foot slightly while standing in the bunker.  Lewis was penalized the applicable two-stroke penalty.  In that situation, she was very gracious and did not berate her caddie at all.  She went on to shoot 64 and win the event by several strokes.

Rule 6-4. Caddie
The player may be assisted by a caddie, but he is limited to only one caddie at any one time.

     Two notable things about this Rule: 1) it is a maximum penalty per round Rule, meaning that if a player is discovered to have been using two caddies for seven holes, he only incurs a two-stroke penalty at the first two holes or would have the match adjusted by only two holes - not seven.  2) If you breach the Rule and it becomes known, you must cease having two caddies immediately.  If at any point later in the round you have two caddies again, you are disqualified.  This is thought of as a "must correct or DQ" but in reality it's not.  It's a "stop now and don't do it again or DQ."
     This Rule came into play during the final match of the California State Amateur this past week.  Dechambeau's father was caddying, but with bad knees at the 15th hole his father asked if it was permitted for him to cease being a caddie and for Dechambeau's coach to step in permanently.  The answer is of course, yes with some guidelines:  a) the coach cannot be stepping in only briefly for the purpose of exchanging a specific piece of advice (see Decision 8-1/26); and b) the two cannot be caddying at the same time.  Once the switch was made, Dechambeau's father had to cease giving advice or performing any actions of a caddie.

Decision 6-4/10 - Acts Which Caddie May Perform

    Fortunately there is a Decision that tells us exactly what a caddie can and cannot do without the explicit permission of the player.  A caddie, without the player's authority may:
Search for the player's ball in accordance with Rule 12-1, place the player's clubs in a hazard (Exception 1 to Rule 13-4), repair old ball marks and hole plugs, remove loose impediments on the line of putt or elsewhere as permitted, mark the position of the ball without lifting it (the caddie needs the player's authority to lift the ball), clean the player's ball and remove movable obstructions.
     The caddie may not drop the ball for the player, or declare the ball unplayable.  He may not lift the ball without the player's authority and may not place the ball.  He may only replace the ball if he was authorized to lift it and did so.

Rule 14-2b. Positioning of Caddie or Partner Behind Ball
A player must not make a stroke with his caddie, his partner or his partner's caddie positioned on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.
EXCEPTION:  There is no penalty if the player's caddie, his partner or his partner's caddie is inadvertently located on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.

     We see this most commonly on the LPGA Tour where caddies frequently line their players up for the shot and then step slightly to the side.  The Rule came about years ago when the USGA noticed Annika Sorenstam and other players would leave their caddies positioned directly behind them for a stroke.  They asked her why she did that and she stated that it helped remove the distractions from the crown behind her.  The next Rules change year came around and the action was no longer permitted.

Decision 7-1b/5 - Competitor's Caddie Practices or Tests Putting Green Surfaces of the Course Before Stroke-Play Round
Q.  In stroke play, a competitor's caddie practices on or tests the putting green surfaces of the course before the competitor tees off.  Is the competitor disqualified under Rule 7-1b?
A.  No.  A competitor is responsible for the actions of his caddie only during a stipulated round.

     Obviously this is one of the most important decisions for Tour caddies.  In between or prior to stroke play rounds caddies frequently go and test the greens for their players.  This is how they get such extensive and thorough yardage guides for their players.  And all these actions are permitted because a caddie is not a caddie under the Rules until the stipulated round begins.

     So as you can see, the Rules clearly show what caddies can and cannot do.  The most important thing they cannot do, however, is hit the ball for the player.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

California State Amateur Wrap-Up

            The 102nd California State Amateur has come to a close and crowned another deserving champion.  Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz, California, fresh off his experience at the U.S. Open, capped off a wonderful week at Monterey Peninsula Country Club with a 3 and 2 victory over Fresno’s Bryson Dechambeau.

Sometimes Getting Up Early Is Worth It...

            This was the first State Am that I had direct involvement and while it was an incredibly exhausting week, I couldn’t have had more fun.  The week was not without its Rules incidents, including the disqualification of the defending champion.  It was more notable, however, for the unique course setup options that I was permitted and able to utilize.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Road

Just Some Deer...

            When a public road defines out of bounds, the Committee has two options:  they can either allow players to play a ball that crosses the road and comes to rest on another part of the course, or not.  Decision 27/20 tells us that a ball which comes to rest on another part of the course is in bounds unless there is a Local Rule in place stating otherwise.  This week, that Local Rule was in place, and a ball that crosses a public road was out of bounds, even if it came to rest on another part of the course.  The exception to that, of course, is when the layout of a hole requires the player to hit across a public road to reach the putting surface or fairway (Hole #4 on the Shore Course and in the final round Hole #14 of the Dunes course).
            On the first hole of his first round, defending champion Kevin Marsh hit his approach long on the first hole of the Shore course, and his ball rolled across the road onto another part of the course.  At this point the Rules required him to proceed under stroke and distance.  He played the ball.  At this point, he had played a wrong ball and was required to correct the error by proceeding under stroke and distance with an additional two-stroke penalty.  He holed out and continued on.  And now… he is disqualified.
            The Committee did not find out about the incident until the next day, however, when it was reported to them by a fellow-competitor from a different group.  Upon the completion of the round, Marsh was asked about his play on the first hole the previous day and he confirmed that he had played the ball from across the road.  He was then disqualified.  It didn’t have a huge impact on him, as he did not play well enough to be close to the cut line, however he had been selected for the SCGA’s team competition and was not able to post a score for them.  Again though, the NCGA had that competition wrapped up fairly well.

Bunkers and Sandy Areas

            Monterey Peninsula Country Club is one of those unique places that winds through sand dunes.  It has both regular bunkers and sandy areas that are considered through the green.  At Kiawah Island  for the PGA Championship, in order to avoid confusion, the PGA made all sandy areas through the green.  For the California State Amateur, however, we clarified the difference between bunkers and sandy areas.  Part of the reason for this is that at MPCC, some of the sandy areas are actually more like hardpan, and are actually used as cart paths on many holes.

Sandy Area Cart-Path on 13th Hole

            So for the 102nd California State Amateur, bunkers were enclosed sandy areas with rakes and through the green sandy areas did not have rakes.  This was the defining difference and that was the guideline officials used.  On the 11th hole of the Dunes course, there are two sandy areas directly adjacent to each other.  The first is completely enclosed and had several rakes.  The second was also completely enclosed but was not prepared by maintenance and did not have any rakes.  Even though they are ten yards apart and both enclosed, the first area is a bunker and the second is a sandy area through the green.

“The Mercedes was Trying to Help”

            During the 12th hole of the final match, Bryson Dechambeau hooked his tee shot left and onto the road next to the hole.  As we learned earlier, public roads define out of bounds and so Dechambeau was out of luck.  We had two forward observers who were able to see the ball come to rest out of bounds and it was well-known that Dechambeau’s provisional was now the ball in play.  But wait!
            A silver Mercedes came driving along the road managed to catch the ball under its front tire shooting it back onto the golf course!  The ball was in bounds!  At least that’s how it appeared when Dechambeau finally made his way down the fairway. 
            In many events, and certainly during friendly weekend play we don’t have forward observers, and Dechambeau may never have seen that the silver Mercedes had moved his golf ball.  Decision 18-1/3 tells us that if it is not known or virtually certain that a ball has been moved by an outside agency, the player would be correct in playing it as it lies.  Had there not been any witnesses, Dechambeau may not have had to play his provisional.  In this one case, however, it was unfortunate to have spotters ahead who were able to see the original spot that the ball came to rest.

Course Setup Philosophy

            Those who know me, know that course setup is what makes my job enjoyable.  I love being able to set hole locations and move around teeing grounds to test golfers and make the tournament more enjoyable.  I tend to err on the side of scoring opportunities, however I have been known to put in some “take your par and run” holes as well.
Tucked Hole Location from Forward Tee
            This week I was in charge of setting the tees for the match play rounds, and helped select the quarterfinal/semifinal hole locations.  In match play, drivable par four holes become incredibly interesting, and the idea of risk-reward takes on its proper meaning. 
            This week, the 8th, 11th and 16th holes were moved up in various rounds to provide opportunities to reach the green and create scoring opportunities.  The 8th hole was by far the most interesting.  From the forward tee it played 280 yards and all 8 players took 3-wood or driver to attempt to reach the green.  Two players held the green, most impressively was Cory McElyea in the semifinal match against Pace Johnson.  McElyea hit 3-wood to about 5 feet and holed the putt for eagle.  He went on to win the match in 19 holes.

14th Hole from 15th Teeing Ground 
            The most fun hole to setup this week was by far the famous par-3 14th hole.  The stroke play rounds had used the traditional gold tee, about 177 yards to the center and over the ocean.  It is a spectacular hole.  But with extreme winds on the second day, we moved the tee to about 149 yards and a friendlier angle for Wednesday and Thursday.  For Friday, however, we wanted to use an incredibly tucked hole location.  So we moved the tee to about 120 yards and watched how great a short hole can be with the right setup.

            Saturday was the best though.  I had come up with the idea while setting tees on Tuesday morning and had started pushing the idea to those who needed to listen.  When we were selecting hole locations with the Assistant Superintendent on Thursday, we asked if we could do it.  We wanted to play the 14th hole from across 17-Mile Drive at the back tee for the 15th hole (Lasered at 160 yards).  The Assistant loved the idea and he asked his boss.  The Superintendent loved the idea, but needed approval from the General Manager because it involved hitting across a public road.  Finally we got the approval with the caveat that we would have to run traffic control while the two players hit.

            The move was a big hit amongst officials and players, albeit with mixed reviews from some spectators.  It may be the only time that hole is ever played that way in competition, so I’m very proud to have done it for our State Amateur.

14th Hole from Traditional Teeing Ground
            What that did, however, was create to completely different angles of approach and therefore, two different paces were necessary.  So I created the hole location sheet with the paces for the two different angles.  Interestingly enough, from the 15th tee angle, the hole was dead center – ten paces from each side.  From the traditional back tee that was used in the afternoon, the hole was only 5 paces off the right.  It was incredibly tricky and it nearly launched a complete comeback from Dechambeau.  Dechambeau, down 5 with 5 to play birdied the iconic hole, and followed it with another birdie on 15 (the tee for which had been moved up to make the par 5 reachable for the first time all week).  After a perfect drive on 16, Dechambeau failed to capitalize and McElyea made a great sand save to halve the hole and win the match.
Final Round Hole Locations

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 US Open Comes to a Close

     The 2013 U.S. Open at Merion has come to a close with Justin Rose as the champion.  It was an incredible championship, and while I was pulling for Phil, Justin Rose is a very deserving champion and he earned it with great play.
    There were several notable Rules moments throughout the Open.  Since the USGA is on the scene, so long as you ignore the television commentators, you can always count on seeing the correct ruling.

     One notable moment occurred with Steve Stricker in the second round.  On the par 3 1/2 third hole his ball came to rest at a spot that looked as though it may or may not be in the bunker.  Stricker was clearly debating taking an unplayable, but needed to know whether the ball was in the bunker or not.  There was great conversation between Stricker and the Rules Official who happened to be PGA Tour VP of Operations Mark Russell as they tried to determine where Stricker would be permitted to drop.
       If the ball was in the bunker, his only options would be to proceed under stroke and distance or to drop in the bunker.  If the ball was not in the bunker, he could use his 28b option and drop outside the bunker in a much better position to try and recover.  Mark came over and ruled that the ball was in fact outside the bunker, laying in an area of sand that had spilled outside the margin of the bunker.  Remember the margin of a bunker extends downwards only and not vertically.  Since the ball was not in the bunker, Stricker was able to drop the ball under Rule 28b and keep the position of the ball between himself and the hole and drop as far back as he wanted.

    Another notable moment came when Carl Pettersson's ball in the fairway was moved by a wayward ball hit from another tee.  This was caught on video as shown below and is quite an incredibly rare occasion.  Because Pettersson did not complete the stroke the ruling was actually simple.  Rule 18-5 required that his ball be replaced without penalty and the other ball would be played from where it came to rest.  An interesting question arose afterward, however.  What if Pettersson had completed the stroke?  USGA Director of Rules Thomas Pagel's answer on TV was, "We'd have to get a ruling." Isn't that what you're there for Thomas?

     He dodged the issue because there really isn't a ruling in place for that scenario.  Had Pettersson completed the stroke, he would have made a stroke at a moving ball and Rule 14-5 would apply.  He would not be penalized for playing a moving ball since the ball was moved after he had begun the downward motion for the stroke.  He would not have been penalized under Rule 18-2a because he clearly did not cause the ball to move.  The stroke would count.  If he made contact with the ball, he would play it from where it came to rest, but there is lively debate as to whether he would be required to replace the ball if he did not make contact with it.  There really isn't an answer to the question, perhaps it will be addressed in the new Decisions coming at the beginning of 2014?  Perhaps it will have to wait until the Rules change in 2016?  My favorite answer to this hypothetical question - Call me when it happens.

Friday, June 14, 2013

When a Ball is Holed

            As I turned on the U.S. Open this morning there was instantly a Rules situation, and as usual Paul Azinger incorrectly stated the Rules of the game.  A ball had come rest against the flagstick and the player carefully moved the flagstick so that the ball fell into the hole.  (Under Rule 17-4 when a ball is resting against the flagstick the player may move or remove the flagstick to see whether the ball falls into the hole). The ball was then officially holed.  The announcers then stated that the ball must touch the bottom of the “cup.”  This is not what the Rule says, and I can point out two specific situations in the Decisions book that state the ball is holed even though it has not touched the bottom of the hole.
The definition of “holed” reads:

A ball is “holed” when it is at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it is below the level of the lip of the hole.

Nowhere in the definition does it state that the ball must touch the bottom of the hole.

In Decision 16/2, the ball embeds in the side of the hole and all of the ball is below the level of the lip of the hole.  The Decision states that the ball should be considered holed.  It does not touch the bottom of the hole.

In Decision 17-4/1, a ball is resting against the flagstick.  In this Decision, the ball is not holed, however the reason it is not holed is because all of the ball is not below the level of the lip of the hole.  A ball that is resting against the flagstick but is resting with all of the ball below the level of the lip is in fact holed, whether or not it ever touches the bottom of the hole.  If there is any doubt, it would still be wise to move the flagstick in such a manner that the ball does fall to the bottom of the hole.

On the other hand, it is necessary to let the ball come to rest.  In Decision 1-2/5, the player catches a short putt in his other hand below the level of the lip of the hole.  Even though the ball was within the circumference of the hole and below the level of the lip, it was not at rest.  In this case the ball was not holed and the player is penalized under Rule 1-2 for influencing the movement of his ball and would lose the hole in match play and incur two penalty strokes in stroke play.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Notable U.S. Open Rulings on the Eve of the Open

            On the eve of the U.S. Open it is only appropriate to look back at some of the more memorable and important rulings in U.S. Open past.  The USGA has governed the Rules of Golf in the United States for over a century now, and plenty has happened in our nation’s national championship worthy of note.

1985 U.S. Open – T.C. Chen

            There are many famous U.S Open moments.  But I’m not sure there is a U.S. Open Rules moment more infamous than T.C. Chen’s double-hit in the 1985 U.S. Open.  The video explains it all, but Rule 14-4 covers it.  After this moment, a double-hit forever became known as a “TC Chen.”

2000 U.S. Open – Angel Cabrera

            For most, this moment went relatively unnoticed.  For Rules gurus, however, this moment will live forever, and it holds a very special place in our hearts at the NCGA as one of our own esteemed officials happened to be the quick-footed marshal on site next to the garbage can.
            On the 12th hole at Pebble Beach, Angel Cabrera missed his tee shot well to the right and it bounced into a garbage can.  The garbage can was a movable obstruction and under Rule 24-1, since the ball was immediately recoverable amongst the trash, he was required to drop the ball as near as possible to the spot directly underneath the garbage can once it was removed.  The NCGA’s own John LoFranco was on hand to observe the event and be viewed in USGA, NCGA and other Rules seminars for the rest of time.

1940 U.S. Open – Ed “Porky” Oliver

            With heavy rain and storms expected, several players in the 1940 U.S. Open felt they needed to start a bit early in order to beat the weather.  Six players ended up teeing off early: E.J. Harrison, Leland Gibson, Johnny Bulla, Ky Laffoon, Ed Oliver and the well-renowned Claude Harmon.  Rule 6-3 states that the player must start at the time established by the Committee.  This usually refers to players who start late, but it also applies to players who start early.  All six players were disqualified following the round once the infraction was discovered.  This didn’t matter much, except for Porky, who would have been in a playoff with Sarazen and Little had he not started early.
            In 2012, a new Decision (6-3/5) went into effect that allows for players to survive with a two-stroke penalty if they start early but within five minutes of their starting time.  This would not have helped Oliver, but it is nice to know the Rules have stayed consistent throughout the years.

2010 U.S. Open – Dustin Johnson

            Dustin Johnson began the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a three stroke advantage over Graeme McDowell.  This quickly evaporated after an ill advised chipping fiasco on the second hole and then it completely disappeared on the third hole when his drive was lost near the area of a lateral water hazard.
            The rough around the hazard and grandstands between the 3rd and 16th holes had grown so thick that they could not obtain virtual certainty that the ball was actually in the lateral water hazard.  It seemed likely and the ball’s line of flight suggested that it had ended in the hazard, but after five minutes of searching they could not determine the whereabouts of the ball and it was officially lost.  Johnson went on to make a large number and was not in contention down the stretch.  The ball was later found about a yard inside the lateral water hazard.

1925 U.S. Open – Bobby Jones

            I don’t think any discussion of U.S. Open rulings would be complete without mention of Bobby Jones’ one-stroke penalty in the final round of the 1925 U.S. Open.  No one else saw it move, but he knew it had changed position.  Jones called the penalty on himself.  The current Rule is 18-2a and a player who moves his ball at rest is penalized one stroke and the ball must be replaced.  In 1925 it was Rule 12-3 and it read:

            When a ball is in play, if a player, or his partner or either of their caddies accidentally move his or their ball, or by touching anything cause it to move, the penalty shall be one stroke.

Jones knew this well and showed exactly how much of a gentleman’s game golf really is by calling a penalty on himself in the nation’s biggest championship.  The stroke cost him the victory and he eventually lost in a playoff to Willie Macfarlane.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Learning Curve: Guan's Newest Penalty

            On the 16th hole in Friday’s round at the Fedex St. Jude Classic, Tianlang Guan’s ball came to rest in a fairway bunker.  He was not sure it was his, so he lifted the ball to identify it.  Rule 12-2 permits the player to lift the ball for identification, but it also has a specific procedure that the player is required to follow.
            Before lifting, the player must mark the ball and announce his intention to lift the ball to a fellow-competitor or his marker in stroke play.    After doing those two things, the player is then permitted to lift the ball in order to identify it.  When he does so, the player must also give his marker or fellow-competitor the opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement. 
            Usually this procedure looks more like a casual conversation, “Hey, I’ve got to see if this is mine,” says the player.  “Ok go ahead,” says the marker.  That simple exchange is generally enough to satisfy the requirement of the Rule.  Guan, however, failed to tell his marker or a fellow-competitor that he was lifting the ball.
            The penalty for failing to follow this procedure is one stroke, only this time the one-stroke penalty did not endanger Guan’s chances of making the cut…he was already going to miss it.  It was Guan’s marker, Steven Bowditch that brought the infraction to the youngster’s attention, and Bowditch then [is reported to have] refused to sign the score card until the proper penalty was applied.  It seems strange to apply a penalty for simply failing to tell the marker you are identifying the ball, but when viewed in line with other examples of procedural penalties it makes perfect sense.
            Rule 5-3, Rule 12-2 and Rule 20-1 all have what is commonly termed as a “procedural penalty,” or a one-stroke penalty that is applied when a player does not follow the procedure outlined in the Rule.  Rule 5-3 requires the player to announce his intention to lift the ball to determine if it is unfit for play.  Rule 12-2 requires the player to announce his intention to lift the ball to identify it.  Rule 5-3 requires the player to give a fellow-competitor or opponent the opportunity to examine the golf ball to see if it is actually unfit for play.  Rule 12-2 requires the player to give a fellow-competitor or opponent the opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement of the ball.  All three Rules require the ball to be marked prior to lifting it.  When a player fails to do any or all of the above actions when lifting the ball under one of those Rules, he incurs that one-stroke penalty.
            The reason these procedures are in place is to protect the integrity of the field in stroke play, and to protect the rights of the opponent in match play.  These procedures ensure that a player always has to inform someone that the ball is being moved, that it is being moved for a purpose and that someone has the opportunity to make sure the ball is lifted and replaced correctly.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Golf's Longest Day - Highlights and Notes

As we near the end of what has been dubbed “Golf’s Longest Day” there were several incidents worth noting.  I want to go over some of the basics in what occurred and clear up some misconceptions.


            Yes, everyone heard correctly that not only is a two-time U.S. Open Champion not exempt into the championship, but he was also disqualified after the first round of Sectional Qualifying.  What Rule did he break?  Well, he didn’t break a Rule, he failed to comply with a Condition of the Competition the penalty for which was disqualification.
            Like many tour professionals, Lee Janzen still uses metal spikes.  Phil Mickelson is known to use them frequently, and even Tiger Woods on occasion as well as many others.  At three of today’s sectional qualifying sites, traditional metal spikes are permitted.  The reason for this difference is that the three sites are typically filled by a majority of tour players.  Lee Janzen was playing at Rockville, Maryland, where spikes were not permitted.
            On the initial entry form as well as in an email and as a posted notice to players, the following condition is listed:

It is a condition at all qualifying sites unless otherwise indicated by an asterisk on this entry application that shoes with traditionally-designed spikes (regardless of composition, i.e., ceramic, plastic, etc.) or spikes, regardless of design, com- prised either entirely or partially of metal (if such metal may come in contact with the course) are prohibited during the stipulated round. Penalty for breach of this condition: DISQUALIFICATION.

Much like Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits, there is no excuse here.  To his credit, Janzen reacted well to the DQ, citing the condition of his game and his score as the real problem.
            To other officials who run or will run Sectional Qualifying in the future: just in case, remind your starters to check player’s shoes or to listen for the clicking sound of metal spikes.
            I want to praise the Middle Atlantic Golf Association’s Michael Cumberpatch for his interview with Kay Cockerill and his responses. He correctly reminds us that it is the player’s responsibility to know the Conditions of the Competition and that his starters remind players about specific items on the tee, including Conditions of the Competition. Most importantly he reminded us that the Condition is not necessarily about the playing of the game. These courses donate their facilities each and every year and they do not want metal spikes in their clubhouse or on their greens and have every right to ask for this Condition. It can’t be said enough, it is the player’s responsibility to know the Conditions of the Competition.
           Just think, would you have any sympathy for a player if, after hitting the ball well-right on a hole arrives at the out of bounds stake and says, “Well I didn’t know this out of bounds was here, some one should have told me,” or, “Why didn’t the starter remind me that I had 15 clubs in the bag?” I don’t think so.

Spot Adjustments

            An extra spot was given out today thanks to the withdrawal of exempt player Richard Sterne.  The extra spot went Jim Herman at the Purchase, NY site.  A great question for someone tuning into “Golf’s Longest Day” for the first time is how does the extra spot become allocated?
            The explanation is more complicated than the common sense behind the formulae: It goes to site that would have received it had the spot been available.  The process for determining a “Spot Sheet” or a “One-for-Every” is quite statistical and spots are not awarded arbitrarily.  The USGA determines the spots using a formula that ranks the strength of the fields based on both player ranking and field size and allotting the spots accordingly.  I am not privy to that formula, or how heavily World Amateur Golf Rankings are weighted against professional World Golf Rankings, but I can provide a general understanding based off a strictly field-size based “Spot Sheet.”
            For NCGA Championships, for example, we determine our spots proportionally: The spots for a site are to the site field size as the total amount of spots available is to the total amount of players attempting to qualify.  For example – There are 60 spots available altogether, and 600 total players.  Your qualifying site has 60 players, how many spots do you get?  Well, 60 spots are 10% of 600, so you’re going to get 10% of 60 players.  You get 6 spots.
            At last year’s Sectional Qualifying, I was in charge of the second course for the Northern California area site and we were informed the evening prior to the event that we had an additional spot available thanks to a late exempt player withdrawal.  This is a regular occurrence at every Sectional and alternates will continue to get in all the way up to the start of the championship because of injuries and late withdrawals.
            At this point the “One-for-Every” becomes an alternate’s best friend or worst enemy.  When a Sectional Qualifier withdraws, alternates from the site itself are first in line.  But if both alternates get in and the site continues to have withdrawals, then the “One-for-Every” comes back into play to determine which site’s alternate is next in.  Because Purchase, NY was awarded an additional spot, it will move to last on the “One-for-Every” list.  As an alternate, your chances of getting into the open could very easily hinge upon your site’s spot on the “One-for-Every.”

Ball Unplayable

            Brandon Matthews may be at the wrong end of the “One-for-Every” but he earned the chance to be on it with an incredible pitch and a wise use of Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.
            On the 36th hole of Sectional Qualifying at Century Country Club in Purhcase, New York, Matthews found himself settled in some tree roots.  After contemplating the risks of attempting to play the shot, he invoked the unplayable ball Rule and took penalized relief.  He chose Rule 28c, and under penalty of one-stroke he dropped the ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lay in the roots no nearer the hole.  His first drop bounced closer to the hole.  His re-drop bounced closer to the hole and he was then required to place the ball on the spot where the re-drop first struck the course.  Then, he chipped in. 
            It was a remarkable shot and at the time it kept him inside the cut-line.  Unfortunately for Matthews, it did not stay that way and he is currently the 1st Alternate anxiously awaiting a phone call from the USGA.