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.

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