Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kuchar, Wrong Places and Claims

                During the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Matt Kuchar played a little more golf than he had bargained for in his 3-and-2 victory over Bernd Wiesberger.  On the 14th hole, about to wrap up a 5-and-4 victory, Kuchar had to move his ball-marker to the side.  Unfortunately he forgot to move it back.  He putted from the wrong place and the players were about to consider the match complete when Wiesberger’s caddie asked if Kuchar had replaced his marker.  Kuchar admitted the mistake and the official ruling is that Kuchar lost the hole for playing from a wrong place.
                As there is some misinformation going around let’s go through the match play process and highlight some differences between match play and stroke play.
                We may remember Zach Johnson’s tenuous victory in 2012 at the Colonial when he made the same error.  He forgot to move his mark back, and fortunately made the putt because he only had a three-stroke lead, was penalized two strokes for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 20-1 and the ball was holed because it was not a serious breach of playing from a wrong place.  That was stroke play. 
                In match play there are no two-stroke penalties.  If a player is guilty of playing from a wrong place he incurs a loss of hole penalty.  What is interesting about match play is that because players are permitted to overlook a breach of the Rules by their opponent, a claim must be made to apply the penalty.  If a referee is assigned to the match, he must act on any breach of the Rules that is observed or reported to him but in the case where officials are not assigned to a match, the opponent must make a claim to apply the penalty for a Rules infraction.  As soon as Wiesberger’s caddie brought the infraction to light, Wiesberger was no longer permitted to overlook the breach and by asking the Rules Official for a ruling, a claim was made.
                One piece of information I do not have is whether a referee was assigned to the match, but my understanding of the sequence of events makes it a moot point.  As soon as Wiesberger’s caddie brought the infraction to light, Wiesberger was no longer permitted to overlook the breach and by asking the Rules Official for a ruling, a claim was made.  Had Kuchar and Wiesberger agreed for some reason not to apply the penalty, they would both have been disqualified for agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf.
                Let’s be clear, the hole was not conceded by Kuchar.  Kuchar incurred a loss of hole penalty and therefore the match had to continue.  Kuchar still managed to close the match out two holes later.  He once again had to move his ball-marker to the side, but this time, he remembered to move it back.
                For more on claims see Rule 2-5.  Also, refer to the Claims chart provided in the Rules Study Guides & Charts section of FarbTalk.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

From the Bottom to the a Week

                Just a quick note on the Ladies’ Australian Open…  Karrie Webb just won her home Open for the fifth time successfully turning around from a disqualification to a victory in consecutive weeks by beating out some of the best players in the game hot on her heels.
                Last week during the Australian Ladies’ Masters Webb was disqualified for signing an incorrect score card in violation of Rule 6-6d.  On the 12th hole of the second round, Webb made a bogey 6 and did not notice that she signed for a par 5 when she returned the score card.  She returned to the official’s area minutes later, noticing the scoring error herself and she brought it to the attention of the officials.  Hoping it was a mistake in the scoring system she was upset to find out she had in fact signed for the incorrect score and was subject to disqualification.
                She wrote a note apologizing to her fans and sponsors, just another sign of a class act.  Thank you Karrie for exemplifying the honorable golfer and owning up to the mistake.  And then, congratulations on the victory!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Live from Stanford: 2014 Peg Barnard Invitational

            The 2014 tournament season is officially underway for me with the Peg Barnard Invitational at Stanford.  Last year was an incredible year where we witnessed NCAA history when Mariah Stackhouse shot an opening nine 26 en route to a final round 61 and an individual victory.  So far through one round, this year has not been quite as eventful.
            Only one remotely notable situation occurred and it leads to what the topic of discussion will be for today:  drop zones.
            A misunderstanding of a local Rule led to a couple players being told their only option for relief from an obstruction was a drop zone that had been provided as an additional option.  Fortunately, I don’t believe either player was significantly disadvantaged but it raised the issue of how to use drop zones.
            Most of us are familiar with drop zones for water hazards, but drop zones can be used for many reasons.  The text in the Rules of Golf Appendix I-B reads, “If the Committee considers that it is not feasible or practicable to proceed in accordance with a Rule providing relief, it may establish dropping zones in which balls may or must be dropped when taking relief.  Generally, such dropping zones should be provided as an additional option to those available under the Rule itself, rather than being mandatory.”  At Stanford, we have two kinds of dropping zones. There are four drop zones provided as additional options for relief under Rule 26-1 (Water Hazards), and there are two situations where drop zones are used as additional options for relief under Rule 24-2 (Immovable Obstructions).
            The drop zones for relief under Rule 24-2 are in place because determining the nearest point of relief in these situations is can potentially be excessively difficult.  In both cases, in order to not go closer to the hole, the nearest point of relief may be a significant distance from where the ball lies.  So on hole 7, two drop zones have been installed and the player may use the nearer of the two, and on hole 8 one drop zone has been installed as an additional option. 
            The reason I’ve made these an additional option rather than mandatory is because there are potential cases where a player could not only determine the nearest point of relief quickly, but that point would be a better option than the drop zone.  When a better option is possible, it would be unwise to take away that option by making the drop zone mandatory.  Typically, we see mandatory drop zones used with TIO’s (temporary immovable obstructions).  This is usually to protect the TIO itself (i.e., TV towers with cables or the camera itself).
            It is also interesting to note that drop zones do not have to be white-painted circles.  We are most familiar with this form because it is easy and common.  But a drop zone can be established in many shapes and ways.  This year for the Peg Barnard, because the water hazard drop zones are on the forward teeing areas where the membership has expressed dismay at the white-painted circles in the past, we have defined the dropping zones using blue tee-markers, and the drop zone is actually the size and shape of a teeing ground (a rectangle two club-lengths in depth defined by the outside edges of the tee-markers).  If you implement this method, it is important to note how the drop zone is defined on your notice to competitors and it may be useful to remind players that they may not tee the ball when using those drop zones.
            Some other interesting Rules regarding drop zones:

  • The ball may roll closer to the hole when dropped in a drop zone.
  • The ball does not have to stay within the drop zone so long as it does not roll more than two club-lengths from where it first strikes the course.
  • The player does not have to stand within the drop zone when dropping.

For the complete text regarding the use of drop zones, see Appendix I-B-8 in the Rules of Golf or the Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

For scores and info on the Peg Barnard go to

Saturday, February 8, 2014

D.A. Points' Spongy Ball

     Well, leave it to the AT&T to have another interesting week.  We FINALLY got some rain in California and it couldn't have come at a better time...except for the AT&T.  That isn't what has become newsworthy however, as late Friday came word of a disqualification penalty.
    D.A. Points was disqualified for a breach of Rule 14-3 when he took at a green spongy ball used as a training aid while waiting on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach.  On second thought, if you're going to be disqualified, there is probably no worse place to break the Rules, right?  While players are permitted to use their normal equipment in such a fashion because it is traditionally accepted (the head cover under the arm is a popular drill on tour) the use of unusual equipment in such a manner is a breach of Rule 14-3 just like using a weighted donut during a stipulated round (see Decisions 14-3/10, 14-3/10.3 and 14-3/10.5 for examples).
    What is really interesting is how the pro-am aspect is being handled.  I completely understand the politics of allowing the pro-am partners to continue playing (lots of money involved and you don't want to worry about finding a marker to fill the other half of the pairing), but Rule 31-7 is pretty clear that for a breach by one partner of Rule 14-3, the entire side is disqualified.  So really, D.A. Points and Condoleezza Rice should be disqualified as a team from the competition.  Instead, they have a local pro (pretty decent player I might add) playing with Rice for the pro-am portion today.  That's something I have never heard of.  Again, I understand, and in the same situation I probably would have allowed Points and Rice to play the third round together but only as playing markers.  It is extremely odd to not only allow the pro-am team to continue, but to substitute a player as well.
UPDATE:  The local pro subbed for Briny Baird who had withdrawn.  The Tour permitted Points to play on Saturday in the team competition.  Still an odd situation.
    Now as I'm writing play has been suspended for a non-dangerous situation because part of Pebble Beach has become unplayable due to the wind.  What is interesting about this, is that because one course is unplayable, all three courses must suspend play.  Part of the logistics of a three-course event like the AT&T Pro-Am is that when it comes to suspending play, resuming play and starting times, what you do on one course, you must do at all three.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bubba Watson's Relief

Bubba Watson takes relief from a burrowing animal hole
   On the 13th hole during the third round of the Phoenix Open, Bubba Watson found his ball in a bush.  Normally, the measuring you see above would be to take an unplayable, but Watson was granted relief for interference from a burrowing animal hole.  Reports differ as to whether the ball was actually in the hole or Watson just had interference with his area of intended swing, but either way, he had interference as defined by Rule 25-1a.
   When taking relief from an abnormal ground condition (ground under repair, casual water or a burrowing animal hole), through the green the player must drop the ball (if immediately recoverable) within one club-length of the nearest point of relief no nearer the hole. As you can see in the picture above, Bubba is measuring from a point within the bush, which is absolutely correct.  The nearest point of relief is determined by where interference from the condition exists, and is not always the nicest point of relief.  In this case, the nearest point of relief was still in the bush, but one club-length managed to get Bubba out of trouble.
    The question that should be raised is that an Exception to Rule 25-1 exists that states, "A player may not take relief under this Rule if (a) interference by anything other than an abnormal ground condition makes the stroke clearly impracticable..."  One could make a valid argument that the bush made Bubba's stroke impracticable and that he should not have been entitled to relief.
   Given that professional golfers can do amazing things if they can get a club on the ball, it was fair to say that Bubba could have played the ball had he not been given relief and therefore the Exception did not apply.  The question to ask when applying the Exception is, "What would you do if the condition (burrowing animal hole) were not there?"  If the answer is, "Take an unplayable," then the player should not be entitled to relief.  If the answer is, "I'd take a whack at it because I can still hit it," the player is probably still entitled to relief.
    It's a bit of a judgment call, and I think the call was correct, but it's worth mentioning that the player is not ALWAYS entitled to relief if they manage to find their ball in a burrowing animal hole even inside a bush.

Kevin Stadler's Unplayable

Kevin Stadler's Ball suspended in a cholla cactus
    On the 11th hole at TPC Scottsdale during the final round of the Phoenix Open, Kevin Stadler's ball came to rest in a unique position suspended above the ground in a cholla cactus.  The announcing booth didn't have a great grasp of the situation so here it is, step-by-step.
    Kevin Stadler opted to proceed under Rule 28c by dropping within two club-lengths of where the ball originally lay, no nearer the hole, with a one-stroke penalty.  Because his ball was suspended in the air, rather than using the actual spot where the ball was, he was permitted to use the spot on the ground directly beneath the ball as his reference point for taking relief.  This ruling is permitted by Decision 28/11 which covers when a player wants to take an unplayable using Rule 28c, but the ball is suspended in the air.
   David Feherty was a bit confused as to why Stadler was permitted to substitute another ball, providing a poor explanation given by Slugger White that Slugger permitted the substitution because it was dangerous for Stadler to reach into the cactus to retrieve the ball.  Here's the catch - when proceeding under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable), a player is permitted to substitute a ball even if the ball is readily recoverable. Specifically, the Rule reads, "When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball."
   While Slugger did get the ruling correct, the explanation given on television was a bit wayward.  Any time a player proceeds under Rule 28, they may substitute a ball if desired.