Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi and the role of Rule 20-2c

            It wouldn’t be the Abu Dhabi without a little bit of Rules controversy right?  Rory McIlroy surrendered two-strokes for a breach of Rule 25-1, but despite the Eurpoean Tour’s John Paramour getting to the media before theories could run rampant, I still haven’t seen a truly thorough explanation.  So before we talk about the aftermath, here’s what happened.
            On the second hole, Rory McIlroy’s ball came to rest in a cross-walk, an area defined as ground under repair by Local Rule (this exists in PGA Tour events as well, players have see this week in and week out).  The Rule governing the relief procedure for a ball in ground under repair is Rule 25-1b.  The player is entitled to find his nearest point of relief and through the green he must drop the ball within one club length of that nearest point of relief no nearer the hole. 
            Most of the world has heard this, and actually understands this.  What has not been talked about, are the real reasons why McIlroy ended up being in violation of that Rule.  In order to figure that out we have to look at Rule 20-2c, which governs re-dropping.  Rule 20-2c tells us that when a dropped ball rolls and comes to rest in a position where there is interference by the condition from which relief was taken under Rule 25-1 the ball MUST be re-dropped.  If the player does not re-drop the ball in that situation and plays the ball, he has played from a wrong place in breach of the applicable Rule (in this case 25-1). 
            The phrase above has become colloquially known as “taking complete relief.”  When Rory McIlroy played the dropped ball with his foot still on or touching the ground under repair, he still had interference (as defined by the Rules) from the ground under repair.  When he still had interference, he was required to re-drop the ball.  Since he did not, he played the ball from a wrong place in breach of Rule 25-1, and incurred a two-stroke penalty.
 This Rule is not new, has not been changed or tweaked recently, and while re-drop situations can be complicated, for a player of his caliber this was Rules 101.  For him to call this a “stupid Rule,” is stupid in and of itself and I will explain why.
Take this example:  You’re taking relief from a cart path.  You drop the ball in the correct spot within one club-length of the nearest point of relief but it rolls into a spot where you still have to stand on the cart path.  Without Rule 20-2c, and even more specifically, without the clause that required Rory to re-drop the ball, you would have to play that ball with interference from the cart path.  What good does that do?  If you took away this Rule, you could potentially never get relief from a situation when you are entitled to it. 
So before the golf world goes haywire over this “outrageous” rule and starts hacking away at the governing bodies, just take a step back and think about it.  In this situation, it may have seemed harsh, but when you apply the Rule to an example that illustrates why the Rule exists, it is easy to understand.

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