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.

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