Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Stanford Intercollegiate and...Chocolate?

            I can’t take any credit for the method, nor can I say we’re the first one to try it, but there is now a proven successful motivation for quicker pace of play in women’s collegiate events – chocolate.
            The second round of the Stanford Intercollegiate is complete, and it was complete in a much quicker fashion today.  There were only 3 missed checkpoints, one of which was caused directly by a lengthy ruling, and there were no potential penalties. The finishing times for the final groups were 17 minutes faster of the first tee and 19 minutes faster off the tenth tee. So what factors contributed to the improved pace of play?
            You can decide which was the most important for yourselves:

The Second Round is Always Faster

This may be true, but it’s not a steadfast rule.  Generally once fields are re-paired by score and players are more comfortable with the tournament and course the pace quickens.  It also helps that regardless of whether today’s hole locations were friendlier or not, the players were more comfortable with them.

Better Communication From the Starters

            Our starters are trained on what to say before they ever start a field in an event of this caliber and we also go over specifics of notes to say to each specific event.  We increased the emphasis on pace of play in this morning’s starter speech and it showed.  Player’s only listen to one or two things you say on the tee, so making sure the one thing they remember is pace of play can make or break the day.

A Penalty Was Issued in the First Round

            I’m a huge supporter of the belief that in order for pace of play to improve penalties must be enforced.  When you use a checkpoint policy it is very easy to let the potential penalties off the hook even when they don’t have a good reason for missing the checkpoints.  We have a very good and experienced Rules Committee and the penalty that stuck yesterday was earned.  It also sent a message to the field.  Anytime a pace of play penalty is upheld it reverberates through the field and everyone adds a little quickness to their step.  It’s a simple fact – no one is afraid of your pace of play policy until you actually use it.

A Prize of Chocolate

            I would like to believe that this surprise was the biggest contributing factor to today’s improved pace of play, but I know logic would support one of the 3 previously listed reasons.  Part of the improved message on the tee today was that if a group made all four checkpoints they would get a prize at the scoring table.  The prize? Chocolate.  Hershey’s Kisses to be exact.  It’s a method that would never work in a men’s event (not trying to be sexist but guys just don’t light up at the sight of chocolate the way the women today did), but it was incredibly fun to see the girls’ excitement at such a seemingly small gesture.  We would ask them if they had made all their checkpoints (we knew the 3 who hadn't anyway) and if they remembered being promised anything by the starter.  Most of them lit up and said "Yeah a surprise!"  We then handed over the Hershey's Kisses, and rather than the slight slump of minor disappointment I thought might occur, I witnessed wide-eyed excitement at every group! I have every intention of continuing this method where possible and continue testing new ways to improve pace of play, including a different chocolate candy treat for the final round tomorrow...  

Stanford Intercollegiate and Simon Dyson

            With one round of the Stanford Intercollegiate in the books, I can highlight a bit of yesterday’s happenings.  It seems like months since I’ve run an event, even though I’ve been an official at four in the past month, and it took a minute to get my bearings again in the morning meeting.  With that said, we did have an interesting day yesterday with a couple events worth noting.

Decision 13-4/31: Touching Sand in Bunker During Backswing

            There was one two-stroke penalty yesterday when a player brushed sand during her backswing when playing her ball from a bunker.  The breach was brought to our attention by a opposing team’s coach, which is always a touchy situation.  We had the official on site make sure to get the facts from the player and not assess the penalty based on the coach’s account and sent a rover in for the double check.  The facts were simple as stated above and unfortunately that results in a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4b.  For reference see Decision 13-4/31.

Pace of Play AGAIN,Again, again

            The most notable incident from yesterday was the pace of play penalty we issued. It has become clear that despite clear verbiage and the widespread use of the checkpoint system, that most coaches and players just don’t seem to get the policy.  Please review the NCAA/USGA Four Checkpoint policy in the Pace of Play section of my page to get the best understanding of this story.
            The group in question missed their first checkpoint at hole #5.  They were 19 minutes over the pace of play and 21 minutes behind the group in front of them.  A fairly egregious breach.  To their credit, the hustled and were back in position through the 9th and 13th hole checkpoints.  During the appeal we’re told they were waiting on the group in front of them up to the 2nd shot on the 16th hole.  Unfortunately, somewhere between the 16th hole and the 18th hole they fell back.  They missed the 18th hole checkpoint at 22 minutes behind the pace of play and 17 minutes behind the group in front, making them subject to a one stroke penalty for the 2nd missed checkpoint.
            During the appeal the claim was that the group in front “rabbited” on them, a phenomenon I would like to discuss here. ”Rabbiting” is when a group realizes they are slow, takes off by playing abnormally quick and leaves the group behind them without a chance to make their checkpoint.  We’ve seen this happen many times, and in many cases it is a reasonable justification for waiving a pace of play penalty.  Typically it is reasonable when players were waiting on the hole prior to the checkpoint or on the tee of the checkpoint hole and then a ball search or something else held the group back on the checkpoint hole.  For this group, the last time they were waiting was the 16th hole.  They gave us no reasons or indications that anything but either poor or slow play held them up on the last two holes.  We even witnessed their play on the final green, where they showed no inclination or awareness of their speed of play. 
            During the appeal, the players stated that they not only had no awareness that they were behind on the 18th hole, but did not know or understand the policy that was in effect. Ignorance is not bliss in this case.  Needless to say, the coaches were not happy when their players came back and revealed the Committee’s decision.  The lengthy discussions with the coaches that followed showed that the coaches did not have a complete understanding of the policy either.  The main discussion revolved around whose responsibility it was to inform the players of their status. The correct answer is…it is the player’s responsibility to understand the policy and be aware of their status.  It is a checkpoint official’s responsibility to tell the players if they have missed their checkpoint.  The player is permitted at any time to ask an official or to check their own watch to determine their pace of play status.  The time to finish is listed on the bottom of the scorecard, and had they looked to see they were behind time, they could then have seen when the group in front was leaving the green that they had 14 minutes to finish the hole.  It is not the job of a tournament official to hand-hold, especially players of this level or caliber.
            The official statistics for the day:  there were 6 warnings issued and 3 potential penalties.  Two of the penalties were overturned and one was upheld.  The two that were overturned missed by only one minute at one or both of their checkpoints and had legitimate causes that slowed them for more than that minute.

A New Topic; Simon Dyson and the Ball Tap

            It is worth mentioning the Simon Dyson DQ at the BMW Masters.  Dyson was disqualified for returning a score lower than actually taken, because he failed to include a two-stroke penalty in his score that he did not know he had received.  A viewer call-in led European Tour official John Paramour to see that Dyson had breached Rule 16-1a by touching his line of putt when not permitted.  I say when not permitted because 16-1a has 7 internal exceptions when a player may touch his line of putt including: to remove loose impediments without pressing anything down, in the act of addressing the ball without pressing anything down, in measuring, in lifting or replacing the ball, in pressing down a ball-marker, in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green or in removing movable obstructions.  What Dyson was tapping down with his ball, I’m not sure, but the action did not fall under any of those internal exceptions and he was in breach of Rule 16-1a for touching his line of putt.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kolon Korean Open Breach

     Here is Geoff Shackleford's article regarding the Rules situation at the end of the Kolon Korean Open:

    Based on reading the comments below the article, some from recognized officials and others from disgruntled fans, I want to explain as best as I can.

    Rule 13-4 governs what players can and cannot do when their ball lies in a hazard.  One Rule that most golfers remember is officially 13-4b: a player may not touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club.  If that was the real video footage, it seems fairly clear that he touched the ground in the hazard.  The penalty for doing so is two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.  The Rules Committee voted 5-3 to assess the penalty.  Why was there doubt?

     First, who has an even number of members on a Rules Committee?  If they'd voted 4-4 how would you break the tie?  Always have your Rules Committee be an odd number...
     Second, and more importantly, the reason there was some doubt lies in the Note to Rule 13-4: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.

    What that means, is the simple brushing of the grass, with practice swing or otherwise, does not constitute a breach of the Rules if it doesn't improve your lie, stance or area of intended swing.  So the question is when did the player ground his club, thereby breaching Rule 13-4?  If the video footage in Shackelford's article is correct, there seems to be two moments where the club was grounded.  The Decisions book even gives us clarity as to what defines grounding the club in Decision 13-4/8:

Q.  If a player's ball lies in a water hazard, when is his club in tall grass considered to be touching the ground in the water hazard in breach of Rule 13-4?
A.  When the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club (i.e., when the club is grounded).

In the last moment of the .gif video on Shackleford's page it appears the player did have his club resting on the grass to a point that would be considered grounded.

    And for the record, if you're taking practice swings in a hazard and brushing grass, you are walking a very fine line between Rules 13-2 and 13-4 so I'd be very careful... You can certainly do so without breaching the Rules, but it wouldn't take much for that to change.