Sunday, September 22, 2013

Live from CordeValle: US Senior Women's Amateur Stroke Play Rounds

            The first two rounds of the 2013 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur are complete at CordeValle and I really need to learn how they figured out how to get the cut to land at 64 players exactly…  No playoff necessary.  Impressive. 
            Also impressive is how quiet the first two rounds of my second USGA championship assignment have been.  All in all, I’ve given three rulings, despite being stationed on holes for 18 hours.

Day 1 – Hole 15

The 15th Hole from the Putting Green Looking Back
            The 15th hole at CordeValle is a straightforward but well-bunkered par-5 with virtually no trouble other than the bunkers.  No players managed to reach the green in two (and stay on) so it was a three-shot festival with only one ball ending somewhere other than a bunker or green grass – and she played it while standing on the path so there was no ruling.
On my way to 15, I ran into the Committee setting the Hole Location on the 17th hole.

            My first ruling came with about five groups left to play and I noticed the wave coming from the putting green.  There was a dime-sized bump about an inch from the hole directly on the line of two players.  They asked if it was a ball mark.  Unfortunately, it was clear to me that the mark was not created by the impact of a ball and it certainly had nothing to do with an old hole plug, so Rule 16-1c did not permit the players to repair it.  It appeared to be a raised turf mark made by a soft spike.  Both players made their putt.
            The second ruling was for an unplayable ball, also near the putting green.  The player had bladed her shot from the bunker over the putting green into the tall grass.  I probably would have played it, but the player is the sole judge as to whether a ball is unplayable.  She had me go through the options, debated briefly and dropped under 28c (within two club-lengths not nearer the hole).  The first drop was in play and that was that.

            Two holes earlier on the golf course, Ryan Gregg had a far busier day including one interesting situation where a player did not want to identify her ball.  Her provisional ball was sitting pretty and one of the volunteer spotters had identified her ball immediately.  The player did not want to lose the option of playing the provisional so she did not want to identify it.  Decision 27-2/2 tells us that we have to tell the player that the original has been found, and Decision 27-2c/2 tells us that the player is required to inspect the ball believed to be the original.  Those who read the blog know that Ryan Gregg already knew this fact, yet he properly still got on the radio and confirmed the ruling with the Committee.

            Another interesting ruling went against the defending champion Ellen Port.  With the Local Rule for transportation in effect for caddies (players may ride, caddies may not), while making the turn Port’s caddie ran to the parking lot to grab something from the car.  On the way back a parking lot attendant gave the caddie a lift back to the 10th hole.  Two strokes later, Port made a brief plea that the caddie did not ride in a player cart and that it was a CordeValle staff person who gave the caddie the ride.  That was unfortunately not a good argument to get her off the hook.  It should be noted that Port still made the cut with plenty of room to spare.

Day 2 – Hole 7

The 7th Hole from the Putting Green 
            The only ruling I managed to make while working the par-3 7th hole was on my way back from the rest room on the 6th hole!  A player was searching for a ball in and along a lateral water hazard and so I headed that direction to assist.  It was a fairly typical 26-1c ruling, except I made sure we had a consensus between the player and a fellow-competitor on where the ball last crossed the margin.  Once the consensus was reached, the player marked the spot, measured two club-lengths and dropped.  The only notable thing about the ruling is that the dropped ball bounced closer to the hole when it first bounced, however it did not come to rest closer to the hole than where the original had last crossed the margin of the hazard.  Therefore, it did not require a re-drop under Rule 20-2c.

This Little Guy and Some of his Friends Have Joined Us at CordeValle

            Tomorrow is an exciting day because it is my first USGA assignment as a Referee.  I was diligent enough to re-read my instructions for announcing and the referee guidelines given in our Rules handbook.  While it will make for a better read if I screw something up, I’m hoping for another quiet day in the match between Tanna Richard and Kathleen Kolar.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Full Overview of Rule 18-2 - Justin, Tiger and Inbee

            After both world #1’s were hit with penalties yesterday under Rule 18-2, another ball at rest was moved by Justin Rose today and he incurred a one-stroke penalty, much to the dismay of announcers and other media who don’t quite understand that it is all the same Rule.  So here is a clarification of Rule 18-2 and why these penalties have occurred:

Playing the Ball as it Lies

            It all starts with Rule 13-1, “The ball must be played as it lies, except as otherwise provided in the Rules.”  This means that the ball cannot be moved by anyone or anything, but there are some exceptions.
The exceptions are actually other Rules.  There are several Rules that permit the player to play the ball OTHER than as it lies without penalty:
            -Rule 24 permits the player to lift the ball to take relief from obstructions.
            -Rule 25 permits the player to lift the ball to take relief from abnormal ground conditions, an embedded ball or a wrong putting green.
            -Rules 18-1 and 19-1 may have the player play from a different spot when an outside agency has affected the position of the ball.

            There are also several Rules that permit the player to play the ball other than as it lies, but must take a penalty stroke to do so:
            -Rule 26 permits the player to take relief from water hazards
            -Rule 28 permits the player to take relief from an unplayable lie.

            There is even a Rule that REQUIRES the player to play the ball other than as it lies and take a penalty stroke:
            -Rule 27-1, if the ball comes to rest out of bounds the player must proceed under penalty of stroke and distance.  If the player plays the ball as it lies out of bounds, the player would be playing a wrong ball (Decision 15/6).

            There are also Rules that permit the player to move his ball at rest, but must follow a specific procedure to do so:
            -Rule 5-3 permits the player to lift the ball to determine if it is unfit for play.  If it is, he may substitute another ball, if it isn’t the ball must be replaced.
            -Rule 12-2 permits the player to lift the ball in order to identify it, but the ball must be replaced.
            -Rule 16-1b permits the player to lift and clean the ball when it lies on the putting green, but it must be replaced.
            -Rule 22 permits the player to lift the ball if it might assist (if any player thinks it might assist) or if it interferes (if the player whose ball it interferes with requests).  The ball must not be cleaned when lifted and must be replaced.

            Those are all instances where the ball would not be played as it lies.  So if a ball is not played from where it came to rest and it was not moved in accordance with the Rules listed above (or other rare exceptions by Decision or Local Rule), there must be a penalty associated with it depending on how the ball was moved.

When the Player Moves the Ball

            That brings us to Rule 18-2.  Rule 18-2 specifically deals with what happens when the player, his partner or either of their caddies move the ball in play.  The Rule is split into two separate parts, 18-2a covers when the ball is moved and it has not been addressed and 18-2b covers when the ball is moved after it has been addressed.
            Rule 18-2b has received a lot of press recently because a new Exception was added in 2012 to add some leniency to the Rule.  The Rule itself did not change and reads: “If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke.”
            The new 2012 Exception absolves the player from penalty if it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move.  Many players thought the Exception would always get them off the hook, but Decision 18-2b/11 clarifies that in order to be virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move, it must be virtually certain that something else DID cause it to move and that gravity is not included in that something else.
            Rule 18-2b is what Inbee Park was penalized under yesterday.  Once she grounded her club immediately behind the ball she had addressed it.  When the ball moved after addressing it she was deemed to have moved it.  The Exception did not apply because there was no virtual certainty that something else had caused the ball to move.  Therefore, she incurred a one-stroke penalty and was required to replace the ball.
            Rule 18-2a is what happens whenever a player accidentally moves a ball prior to addressing it.  This happened yesterday with Tiger Woods when he started to move a loose impediment.  And then today, Justin Rose was penalized when his divot from a practice swing moved his ball in play.
            Where some get confused is the difference between the one-stroke and the two-stroke penalties that occur under this Rule.  Here is the answer:  The Rule (both a and b) requires the ball to be replaced unless the movement began after the backswing for the stroke and the stroke was made.  If the ball is replaced, it is only the one-stroke penalty proscribed by the Rule.  If it is NOT replaced, the player has played the ball from a wrong place, and the one-stroke penalty becomes a two-stroke penalty because the player is in breach of the Rule and incurs the general penalty.
            So yesterday, because Tiger didn’t think his ball had moved, he didn’t replace it.  When he didn’t replace it, the one-stroke penalty for moving his ball became a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place.  I’ll leave the gallery to comment on the fairness of the use of video footage when the player’s eye was not able to see movement.
            Today, when Justin Rose moved his ball via his divot, he saw the movement and was able to replace the ball to the correct spot.  His one-stroke penalty stayed a one-stroke penalty.  (See Decisions 18-2a/20 and 18-2a/20.5 for practice swings moving the ball in play).
            It all comes back to Rule 13-1 and playing the ball as it lies.  In order to play it as it lies, you cannot move the ball.  If you do, there is a penalty. If you move the ball and don’t put it back it becomes a bigger penalty.

Playing from a Wrong Place and the Applicable Rule

            For the advanced Rules minds I want to share a brief note about citing penalties.  When dealing with wrong place penalties, the Rules are frequently mis-cited.  You will see citations stating that the player was penalized under Rule 20-7.  When a player plays from a wrong place, however, the Rule he is breaching is not Rule 20-7.  In fact, Rule 20-7 states specifically that, “If a competitor makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes under the applicable Rule.”
            Well what is the applicable Rule?  As we saw in the examples above, it is frequently Rule 18-2a or 18-2b.  If the player moves the ball and fails to replace is it is a two-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a or b and not 20-7.  If, when taking relief from a water hazard a player drop the ball three club-lengths from the point where the ball last crossed the margin and plays it, he incurs the one stroke penalty for taking relief and an additional two-strokes under Rule 26-1 for the breach of the Rule.  The penalty comes about because he played from a wrong place, but the Rule breached is not 20-7 but rather 26-1 in this case.

Friday, September 13, 2013

BOTH world #1's Penalized Under Rule 18-2

          It certainly is Friday the 13th.  Jim Furyk shoots 59 and not one, but both the Men's World #1 AND the Women's World #1 were hit by penalties under Rule 18-2.  Inbee Park had a ball that moved after she had addressed it on the putting green and incurred a penalty under Rule 18-2b, while Tiger suffered at the hands of a freelance videographer for a violation he could not have seen with the naked eye and ended up incurring the general penalty (two strokes in stroke play) under Rule 18-2a.  

Tiger and the Videographer

            On the first hole today at the BMW Championship a loose impediment was very close to Tiger Woods’ golf ball.  Rule 23-1 permits players to remove loose impediments through the green but in doing so the ball must not be moved.  During the round, Tiger thought that the ball had simply oscillated and had not moved, but footage from a freelance videographer given to Slugger White and the PGA Tour team showed that the ball had in fact changed its position. Since Tiger did not replace the ball to its original position (believing that it hadn’t actually moved) he was subject to a two-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a.  As we’ll see in the next situation, under Rule 18-2 it’s a one-stroke penalty for moving the ball in play at rest, and then it becomes a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place if the ball is not replaced.

UPDATE:  PGA Tour official later stated that the footage was captured in the normal process of filming non-televised video.  It also is clear that Tiger could have seen the movement, but I can also see from his angle it perhaps maybe looked like an oscillation or that perhaps the ball had not physically changed positions.

            This is a rather unfortunate situation and although I used to be a fan of any and all information that could be used, I think maybe we have gone a bit too far.  In a situation where the player is present and believes the ball did not move or change positions and perhaps could not possibly tell if the ball has moved without video footage, then it’s time we let the players play.  If it takes slow motion video in order to tell that the ball has moved, perhaps it’s a bit unfair to penalize a player who was not able to see the movement with the naked eye.  Just saying…

Inbee and the (Not So) New Definition

            Inbee Park at the Evian Championship on the other side of the globe also incurred a penalty under Rule 18-2 today.  On the 2nd hole (her 11th), she grounded her club behind the ball and it moved.  At first she believed she wouldn’t be subject to penalty thinking that the old definition of “Addressing the Ball” was in place, where a player had to take his stance before the ball would be addressed.  That definition actually changed in 2012 and now a ball is addressed once the player has grounded the club immediately in front of or behind the ball regardless of whether the stance has been taken. 
            Since Park had grounded her club immediately behind the ball, she had addressed it and when the ball moved she was subject to a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2b and the ball had to be replaced.  In this situation the Exception to Rule 18-2b did not apply and since she was able to put the ball back before making a stroke, the penalty stayed at one stroke and did not become a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place.