Saturday, October 26, 2013

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.

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