Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 The Goodwin: The Rulings

            The Goodwin had so many good things going that it warranted two separate posts.  The first post discussed the amazing pace of play.  This post will cover the most interesting rulings that took place over the course of the tournament.

The Power Line Ruling

            On several holes at Stanford Golf Course, power lines come in to play and so the local Rule as prescribed in Decision 33-8/13 was in effect.  As we found out, I had made one small error: I did not specify that it should only apply to the 3 holes where power lines are actually crossing the line of play or are on the course.  The 8th hole at Stanford has power lines directly adjacent to the course. A player hit his tee shot and it bounced off the cart path and into one of the adjacent power lines, a rub of the green that led to his ball coming to rest in bounds, but in a fairly difficult position. 
A large kudos goes to this player who was initially asking for nearby obstruction relief and was denied because he did not have interference under Rule 24-2a.  He then pointed to his Notice to Competitors, which had the local Rule on it and said, “But my ball hit the power line.”  The local Rule does not specify HOW the ball must strike the power line (in the air vs. on the bounce) only THAT it strikes the power line.  The player was required to cancel the stroke and replay from the teeing ground.  In the future the Notice will specify Hole 1 & 2 for the application of the power line local Rule.

Conforming Grooves

            We had one unfortunate ruling that had to be made against a player following the first round.  An equipment rep was at the event and asking players about their equipment and was speaking with a player before the round when he noticed wedges that were from the pre-2010 groove Rule and did not conform with the requirements of Decision 4-1/1 which is now on the NCAA Hard Card.  The player was under the misconception that the non-conforming grooves only applied to USGA championships and that he could use them in NCAA play.  He looked at his hard card and realized his error.  He found Coach Ray who then found me and we went through the process of confirming that the grooves on his wedges were in fact, not in accordance with the conforming grooves condition.  I confirmed this with both the rep and the Informational Club Database from the USGA.
            Being a team event, the individual was disqualified from the first round, but per Decision 33/8, the player was permitted to play and count his score for the team event in the final two rounds (provided he used conforming wedges).  He borrowed some conforming wedges and continued on.  Unfortunately for the team this meant that they had to count an 81 instead of a 71 in the first round and dropped 10 strokes in one fell swoop.
            For those worried about the use of those wedges in previous events, remember that per Rule 34-1b once the competition is closed he would only be disqualified if he had known that he was in breach of a Rule with a disqualification breach.  He was not aware that he was in breach of the Rule, so the issue only applied to the current competition.

Moving Ball After Address

            Last fall I did a Rules presentation for the Stanford Men’s Team that covered all kinds of topics, including the 2014 Decision changes, Rule 3-3 and Rule 18-2.  The majority of questions revolved around Rule 18-2b and when the ball should or should not be replaced.
            Naturally, during The Goodwin we had multiple rulings involving a ball moving before or after address.
In on case, Rule 20-3d applied, the ball came to rest after being replaced and then subsequently rolled closer to the hole without anything causing it.  The ball must be played as it lies and 18-2 does not apply.
In another case, the player addressed his ball and the ball moved slightly forward.  The official on site correctly Ruled and confirmed on the radio that the player incurred a one-stroke penalty and must replace the ball.  It was not known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move, so the Exception to Rule 18-2b did not apply.
We heard at Rules School this year that Rule 18-2 will be undergoing some changes in 2016 and it was even implied that 18-2b and the whole issue of before or after address will go away.  I hope that is the case.  The player either caused the ball to move or not.

Lump of Sand?

            I was approached by a player at the turn about a situation that had occurred several hole prior.  Near a bunker he noticed a hard clump of what was apparently sand which had been wet and hardened into a single lump about ¾ the size of a golf ball.  He removed the lump from about 8 inches behind his ball and the lump did not break when removed.  Due to the circumstances when approached I needed to confirm what we were dealing with.  1) Does this constitute a loose impediment?  Sand and loose soil are not loose impediments through the green, only on the putting green.  Does this hardened clump of sand qualify as sand, or a lump of earth (Decision 23/13)? If it was sand, why did the player remove it? Did this improve his area of intended swing or lie?
A nearby coach later claimed he witnessed the player sweep sand from both in front of the ball and behind the ball, rather than lifting a solitary lump.  This change of facts definitely changes the answer.
We came to the decision that if the lump was as explained by the player, it would be a loose impediment and he was entitled to remove it.  So when the player was interviewed at scoring we got another viewpoint from his fellow-competitor who agreed that the player did not sweep sand but simply removed one single clump that did not break and was about ¾ the size of a golf ball.  Regardless of the composition the Committee agreed that this hardened clump constituted a loose impediment and not sand or loose soil. Therefore the player incurred no penalty because Rule 23-1 permits a player to remove loose impediments through the green without penalty, even in an area protected by Rule 13-2, provided the ball is not moved in the process. (For more on removal of loose sand on your line of play see the earlier post about Keegan Bradley last week at Doral).

Unannounced “Provisional”

            After playing his second shot into the par-5 first hole, the player’s ball came to rest somewhere close to the boundary.  He was not sure so he took out another ball and announced to his fellow-competitors that this ball was a Nike with a blue dot, the other ball had a green dot.  He did not say anything else, dropped the ball and played it toward the green.
            We had an official in the area that was close enough to hear the statement but not close enough to confirm with the player that it was intended to be a provisional ball before he played.  Unfortunately, the announcement the player made did not qualify as a statement that announces a provisional ball (see also Decision 27-2a/1).  I had this exact situation an announcement during 2009 PGA Tour Qualifying School and we took the situation to Golf House who confirmed that particular announcement did not constitute an acceptable provisional ball announcement.  The word provisional was not used and it did not make it clear that he was proceeding under Rule 27-2a.
            So when the player asked if his first ball was in bounds, the player was informed that his second ball was the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.  The ruling was correct but there is one main thing I would have liked to have seen go differently:
-       In a situation where the player is disadvantaged by the ruling (correct or incorrect), get on the radio. I did not like hearing about this situation after the fact. This applies to a lot of situations.  We know that it is sometimes difficult under the gun to get on the radio before issuing a ruling, but please try.  

Movable Obstruction

            We received a call on the radio about a ball that had come to rest against several stacked cart signs that were intended to be away from the normal course of play.  The official on site radioed to confirm that the player could move the obstructions, and if the ball moved he must replace it, without penalty. Movable obstructions are treated similarly, but ultimately differently from loose impediments under the Rules.  Loose impediments through the green may be moved, but the ball must not be moved in the process.  Because movable obstructions are artificial objects that don’t belong on the course, they may be removed ANYWHERE, and if the ball is moved in the process there is no penalty but the ball must be replaced.

Covered by Sand

            We received a call room the 6th hole that a player needed help with a situation where his ball was covered by sand and could not be identified.  Rule 12-1a to the rescue. Coincidentally this occurred about two hours after the same situation happened to Jimmy Walker during the Valero Texas Open. 
The procedure is simple: the player may dig with his hands or otherwise, into the sand to find the ball.  Once found and identified, the player must re-create the lie which includes replacing sand and re-covering the ball, leaving only a small part of the ball visible.  If the ball is moved in the process of searching for it, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.

Wave Size and Intervals: Pace of Play at The Goodwin

            One of the hottest topics in golf and golf administration alike is pace of play.  In collegiate golf, pace of play has become a huge issue as rounds have become increasingly lengthy.  Some have said college golf has a pace of play problem.  If The Goodwin this past week is any indicator, college golf does not have a pace of play problem, it has a tournament set up problem.
            Don’t get me wrong, there are slow players that end up hurting the entire field as a result of their slow play.  If you’re one of them and you’re reading this…we already know who you are.  To anyone with enough experience running collegiate events, the slow players are quite obvious.  But there are pace of play policies that penalize those players, so why can’t tournaments run more quickly?  The answer is simple: wave size and intervals.
            After the 2014 Goodwin, Stanford Coach Conrad Ray reviewed the pace of play with me at the event and wanted to discuss what could be done and the potential for increasing the field size.  In 2014, with 96 players in a single wave, the average round was over 5 hours, even using the NCAA/USGA four check-point system and having walking officials with each group.  The blame didn’t rest on the policy, the course or the players: it was the setup.  96 players in groups of 3 is simply too many to get around the golf course.  So what could be done?  We came to an interesting idea – use a double-wave.
            The idea was out of the box considering the event is run in March when daylight is at a premium still.  Though the comments didn’t come to me directly, I heard several coaches thought the idea was crazy and even led to us adding the Committee’s right to institute a cut if necessary to complete the final round.  The key was in the setup.
            With a double-wave the first key was to keep each wave size reasonable for the course.  The absolute max that should be in the wave was 78.  We started with 63 and then added some individuals to make 66 in each wave for 132 players total - a huge event by collegiate standards (24 teams plus 12 individuals).  The next key was to make sure the starting intervals were large enough ensure a smooth start and room for error.  I recommended and we went with 11-minute intervals.  Once that wave size and interval was set, the tournament was set up for success, the last part was to execute the four check-point pace of play policy.  If a pace policy is not enforced, it won’t work.
            We set a relatively aggressive pace for the golf course and event of 4 hours and 34 minutes (additional turn time was given to groups turning from 18 to 1).  I know that doesn’t sound like NASCAR speed, but given that the average pace had been well over 4 hours and 55 minutes for the past few years using one single giant wave, and that a pace set any slower would result in absolutely no wiggle room with daylight, the pace was just right to allow for hiccups but keep everyone moving.
            The statistics below confirm that the tournament setup was a success. Because the front and back nine pace was set differently, I’ve averaged the over/under to give more comparable data. There are several times to look at when judging pace of play: 1) What was the average turn time? 2) What was the average finish time? 3) What was the finish time of the final groups?

Round 1:
During the first round our morning wave did not get off to the quickest start.  Regardless of how an event is setup, hiccups can slow a group down, but the intervals allowed the group to catch up.  The morning wave turned 2 minutes under pace and finished an average of 7 minutes under pace (4:27).  The afternoon wave turned and finished an average of 6 minutes under pace. The final groups finished on average 2 minutes under the established pace. This means that the very last groups to come in on day one averaged a pace of 4:32. 

For the day as a whole, the turn averaged 4 minutes under and finished 6.5 minutes under pace. There were 9 checkpoints missed in the morning and only 1 in the afternoon.  Only one group missed two checkpoints, and only one missed their final checkpoint having made the first three and had to go to appeal.  The appeals were upheld and the groups were not penalized as their misses was due to circumstances that warrant not issuing the penalty under the policy.

Round 2:
After day one, we were just hopefully the same kind of pace would continue and it did. The morning wave turned 1 minute under pace and finished 8 minutes under pace (4:26).  The afternoon wave turned 10 minutes under pace and finished a whopping 16 minutes under pace (4:18). The final groups finished an average of 7.5 minutes under pace (4:27)

For the day as a whole, the turn averaged 6 minutes under pace and finished 12 minutes under pace.  There were 9 checkpoints missed in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.  No groups missed a second checkpoint and only one group missed their final checkpoint having made the first three.  Their appeal was upheld due to circumstances that warrant not issuing the penalty.

Round 3:
At this point, it was too good to be true.  Could round 3 go just as smoothly?  The answer was a resounding YES! The morning wave turned an average of 9 minutes under pace and finished 17 minutes under pace (4:17).  The afternoon wave consisting of the leading teams and players turned 4 minutes under pace and finished 9 minutes under.  The final groups in the morning were both 15 minutes under pace, and the afternoon final groups finished right at the 4:34 mark.

For the day as a whole, the turn averaged 6 minutes under pace and finished 13 minutes under.  There were3 checkpoints missed in the morning and 6 in the afternoon.  No groups missed a second checkpoint and only one group had to appeal after missing their final checkpoint having made the first three.  Their appeal was upheld due to circumstances warranting not issuing the penalty.

The Whole Picture:
The days were longer for tournament officials and administrators but they were much, much shorter for players and coaches. As a whole, the final groups in the tournament averaged a finish time of 6 minutes under the established pace of play (4:28).  The total average finishing time was 10 minutes under pace, or 4:24.  Some interesting details surfaced:
-       Turn times were always slower than the finish times. Two reasons lead to this stat: 1) Groups that are playing quickly constantly gain time throughout the round and therefore have more time to play under pace after 18 than 9 and; 2) warnings dramatically speed up a group’s pace and it takes time for the field as a whole to catch up.
-       On the first two days when the pairings were set in advance, the afternoon wave was quicker than the morning wave on both days.

In the end, it is clear that the tournament setup led to success.  There was never a thought that we would have to suspend play for darkness. We didn’t have to issue a penalty (believe me, if a group deserved one, they would have received it). Players really enjoyed being able to play without delay, coaches really enjoyed having their whole teams done in less than 5 hours from first group start to last group finish and officials really enjoyed being able to spend more time discussing the Rules rather than pace of play.
            I want to congratulate Maverick McNealy on his fourth individual victory of the season and UAB on their team victory.  We did use NCAA tie-break procedures rather than a play-off in both instances due to the initial probability that there would not be enough time to conduct a play-off.  Even though in the end daylight was left, you never deviate from your published tie-breaking procedures.  A huge internet round of applause to Stanford Assistant Coach Graham Brockington for running a great event in his first go-around and thanks to the Stanford Golf Course staff for their usual great work. 
The biggest thanks should go to all the volunteers.  The Stanford volunteer crew work as spotters and live scoring stations and greatly assist us as officials in keeping play moving by not losing golf balls or contacting us when a ruling is needed on a hole where we don't have an official stationed.
My gratitude of course goes to our own NCGA officials who did a fantastic job communicating throughout the tournament making sure that our rulings were confirmed, timely and known to the Committee.  The officials that worked as checkpoint officials did a great job communicating with me and the Committee, following the script with players and timing consistently and accurately.  The rovers were able to follow problem groups after an initial breach so that we could gather data on a group to find out whether there was a slow player involved. We implemented the checkpoint policy by the textbook and the results showed. Thank you and look to the following post regarding the Rules situations from The Goodwin! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Weekend in Review

                So it was a relatively exciting weekend for the Rules, at least on a few occasions.  I knew eventually the Tours would have something for me to share.  So the weekend in review:

Rule 26-2 in Action:
                Because Tour players are so darn good it is extremely rare to see one have to use Rule 26-2.  On the 8th hole during the Arnold Palmer Invitational’s third round, however, Ernie Els learned how useful it is to have the “Regression Rule.”
                Ernie hit his second shot on the reachable par five hole onto the grass bank short of the green but within the margin of the hazard.  He tried to play the ball from the grass bank (eventual controversy to be discussed in a minute) and it went back into the hazard.  Without the regression Rule, Ernie would be in quite a pickle, however, when a player plays from within a water hazard only to come to rest in that same water hazard, Rule 26-2 provides the player the option of proceeding directly to the last place where a stroke was made from outside the hazard with a one-stroke penalty.  Ernie took that option and went back to the fairway where he had initially played his second stroke and finished out the hole for a crowd pleasing 8.
                Controversy followed, because while Ernie was debating whether or not to play his ball in the hazard, his club came perilously close to touching the ground, and from the television view, he appeared to have grounded his club in breach of Rule 13-4.  Officials reviewed the footage which they deemed inconclusive so when Els arrived at scoring they made sure to ask him whether he had grounded his club.  He answer that he had touched the grass but had not “soled” his club, so they did not issue a penalty because he was not in breach of Rule 13-4.  Remember, the Note to Rule 13-4 permits the player to touch with his club or otherwise, grass or any growing thing in a hazard provided the ground in the hazard is not touched.

Whoops! Keegan’s “Rookie” Mistake:

                During the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Keegan Bradley was issued a two-stroke penalty for a breach of 13-2.  The breach?  He brushed sand lying through the green, off of his line of play.  Because sand and loose soil are only loose impediments when lying on the putting green, Rule 13-2 prohibits a player from improving his line of play by removing sand or loose soil when lying through the green.  Remember that Rory McIlroy was penalized two-strokes for this same breach at Abu Dhabi several years ago.

“I was just scared of the bees!”
                During the final round of the LPGA Founders Cup in Arizona, the eventual champion Hyo Joo Kim found herself near a tree with a bee hive in the higher branches.  Scared that she might be in danger of being stung, she asked a Rules Official if she could get relief.  The official denied her relief stating that her ball wasn’t near the hive and the bees were not swarming.  She appealed, and the second official also denied her relief. She was trying to get relief in accordance with Decision 1-4/10 which provides relief to players from dangerous situations; namely rattlesnakes or bees. Since her ball was lying through the green, she would have been entitled to drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest spot, no nearer the hole that was not dangerous, not in a hazard and not on the putting green. However, since she was denied relief, she had to play the ball as it lay.  Fortunately she went on to win the event.
                It was an interesting choice by the Rules Officials and I believe a good one.  In order to apply the dangerous situation decision there must be an eminent danger.  If the player were allergic to bees, perhaps the danger would have been more dire, however since the player was simply nervous about them, and the bees were not close or in swarming formation (information that officials gather prior to the event in order to be prepared for such an occurrence), she was not entitled to relief. Had the officials provided relief, I believe that would have been ok as well.  Typically I would rather err on the side of caution when dealing with bees, especially if they might be Africanized, but that is why it is important as an official to know the landscape (and inhabitants) of the golf course so you know whether there is or is not actually a danger from the insects.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Things Are a Part of What They Define

     There are very few times in the Rules of Golf that 100% consistency can be claimed throughout.  One thing that is consistent, is that things that define are part of what they define.  We see this in each Definition where objects define an area of the course (or off the course). I will give some examples to highlight the point and then show the ruling from the Junior Tour of Northern California Spring Series I that occurred last week where this principle came into play.

Water Hazards
     With both Water Hazards and Lateral Water Hazards, when stakes define the margin of the hazard, the stakes are inside the hazard.  When a line defines the margin, the line itself is in the water hazard and a ball that so much as touches a defining line or stake is considered to be in the water hazard.

Out of Bounds
     This one is slightly harder to see because out of bounds is the one area defined that is NOT on the course.  But remember that stakes that define out of bounds are not obstructions and they lie out of bounds. When a line defines out of bounds, the line itself is out of bounds.  In this case, a ball must be completely out of bounds in order to be out, so a ball merely touching the out of bounds line or stake is not out of bounds so long as part of the ball also touches the course (meaning it breaks the course side of an invisible vertical plane at the boundary).

Ground Under Repair
    Another instance where stakes or lines that define the area are considered part of what they define is in ground under repair. A ball that simply touches the stake or line defining the area is considered to be in the ground under repair.

Junior Tour Spring Series I
     On the 7th hole at Stockton Country Club, there is a lateral water hazard that lays along the right hand side.  The entire hazard is surrounded by a cement wall.  In the Local Rules, the margin of the hazard is defined by the "outside edge of the cement wall."  Later in the round, a player's ball came to rest laying against the cement wall.  Because things are a part of what they define, the player's ball was touching the lateral water hazard. So when the player asked if he was entitled to relief from the obstruction (because even though it lies in a water hazard it is still an obstruction), I had to tell him no, and that he must either play the ball as it lay (which was virtually impossible) or take penalized relief from the water hazard under Rule 26-1.  Had his ball had even a millimeter of space between the ball and the wall the player would have been entitled to relief from the cement wall in accordance with Rule 24-2b.  Remember, when it comes to obstruction relief, it is where the ball lies, not the obstruction (I use the word obstruction for that general statement because remember that an immovable artificial object lying out of bounds is not an obstruction).

     This premise has also become an issue when officials or club officers have asked advice about local Rules to define their golf course.  In many cases, they would like to deem the edge of the cart path to define out of bounds in some places.  While in many cases that would make a great boundary, if the cart path is defining out of bounds, it is "part of" out of bounds and is not an obstruction (Definition of Obstructions).  Which means that players would not be entitled to relief if their ball came to rest in bounds on the cart path.  This is why, on the right side of the 12th hole at Poppy Hills, we installed white Botts dots to officially define the out of bounds margin.  With the Botts dots defining out of bounds the cart path was free to remain an obstruction.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The MGA Quiz Results are Out!

Kudos to the MGA on another fine Quiz for 2015.  Every year it challenges the best Rules minds in the country with questions that pick out the tiniest nuances of “hidden gem” decisions.  This year was no different.  And as always, I feel the need to either justify or explain the mistakes as Ryan Gregg and I post “our guesses” each year in an attempt to work our way through this labyrinth of a Rules quiz.

This year we guessed wrong on 4 questions.  I must say a couple times, they just got us. And another couple times, I have an argument that I would love to be heard…

MGA Correct Answer in GREEN
Ryans’ Answer in YELLOW

7. On the tee of the 17th hole of a match where Player A is 1 up and the “One Ball” Condition is in effect, Player A notices that he is playing his last Titleist ProV1 ball. He makes a stroke from the tee and the ball comes to rest in a water hazard. He asks Player B if he has any ProV1s he could borrow, but unfortunately the opponent only has ProV1x balls. Player B believes this is sufficient, so he gives him a ProV1x. Player A proceeds under R26-1a. His next stroke lands on the putting green. As he prepares to mark his ball, his coin falls out of his hand and moves the ball, which he immediately replaces and all of which is observed by Player B. He completes the hole in two more strokes. After they have walked off the green, Player A asks Player B what he scored, to which Player B replies, “eight”. What is the status of the match?
A) Player A is dormie.
B) Player A wins the match 2 & 1.
C) The match is all square.
D) Player A is disqualified.

This is where one of my pet peeves comes into play.  On most Rules exams (certainly the ones that count for certification or other purposes), when a question is asked about the status of a match or a penalty in match play, you are told to assume a claim is made.  Several times on this year’s exam, whether or not a claim was made was the deciding factor between right and wrong and was done in a severely tricky manner.  In this question, we agreed that the breach of the one ball condition was overlooked and therefore would not be applied. However, when A failed to inform B of the penalty he incurred for moving his ball (the fact that B witnessed this is irrelevant, Rule 9-2 refers to Rules that a player incurs a penalty for using, such as 26 or 28 and that interpretation has been confirmed with Golf House).  So with a match play question, we made the assumption a claim was made in which case A lost the hole and the match was all square.  Well as we can see, the question meant exactly what it said.  No claim was made and therefore the match stood as played with A the winner 2 & 1.

11. In stroke play, a player’s second shot comes to rest on the putting green two feet from the hole. The player putts his ball. As the ball is rolling, a gust of wind blows a leaf that hits the ball and deflects it into the hole. After he retrieves his ball from the hole, the player moves on to the next hole and tees off. What does the player score for the hole?
A) 3
B) 4
C) 5
D) The player is disqualified.

The MGA got us on this one. We correctly identified that this was a cancel and replay situation and that he failed to replay and incurred a two-stroke penalty for that. However, we missed the part of the Decision (19-1/3) that states the stroke that was deflected does not count in his score.  They gave all the information necessary to know this wasn’t a serious breach, but we operated from the Rule and didn’t go to the Decision which provides that little kink.  Kudos!

17. Both players in a match have reached the green. Player A is away and putts his ball. As the ball is rolling towards the hole, Player B putts his ball and it strikes A’s ball, leaving it a few inches from the hole. Player A believes he must play the ball as it lies so he taps his putt into the hole. Player B informs A that he was supposed to cancel the stroke and replay the ball. Believing Player A played his ball from a wrong place, Player B claims the hole and picks up his ball. After they tee off on the next hole, they find a member of the Committee who rules that:
A) Player A wins the hole as Player B never holed out.
B) Player A wins the hole as Player B’s ball struck Player A’s ball.
C) Player B wins the hole as Player A played from a wrong place.
D) Player A wins the hole as Player B made a stroke while Player A’s ball was in motion.

I have a problem with this question.  I do not disagree with the answer as written, but it doesn’t translate to the application of the situation as a referee in the real world.  The question states that B made the claim, which means that the claim was about the wrong place.  A never made a claim about B breaching Rule 16-1f.  So kudos on a very tricky answer.  BUT, if I am a referee or member of the Committee and that entire scenario is presented to me, I am required to act on everything reported to me and reported in that question is B’s violation of Rule 16-1f. I have to give A the hole as that violation occurred first.

19. On the first green, both Player A and Player B lie one. Player A replaces his ball in front of Player B's ball-marker by mistake. He lifts B’s marker and then realizes that he has put his ball back in a wrong place. He informs his opponent of his error. Player A replaces his opponent’s marker to its original position, lifts the ball, finds his own marker, and replaces his ball properly. He then two-putts for a three. Player B properly replaces his ball and completes the hole in four strokes. What penalty, if any, is Player A assessed for lifting B’s ball-marker?
A) A loses the hole.
B) A incurs a penalty of one stroke and the hole is halved.
C) If B makes a claim for a violation of R18-3b before any player tees off on the second hole, it will be upheld.
D) There is no penalty and A is 1 up.

This is a great question because you need to find the Decision and read it very carefully.  When we first got this question it brought up the question “What about the claim?  Was a claim made? Was no claim made?  Do we have wrong information?”  However, seeing the answer it is clear the question means EXACTLY what it asks for.  However, I do absolutely DESPISE answer C.  The claim will be upheld how? It’s a throw-in answer because they couldn’t figure out something different to put in (in match play questions what else do you have sometimes but win, lose or half right?) and it’s a bogus throw-in answer.  But you know what, it’s really difficult to write this kind of a test and even more so to come up with 3 wrong answers to every question so I’ll step-off the soap box know.

Anyway, the key here is that Decision 20-1/6.5 tells us the 18-3b does not apply to ball-markers.  We didn’t see that Decision and therefore went with an 18-3b penalty. We were torn at one point as to whether wrong information should be considered, but the question doesn’t ask that…it asks for the penalty for lifting the ball-marker. The key to 20-1/6.5, however is that it is an equity decision.  Even though 18-3b does not apply to ball-markers, the opponent would still get a one-stroke penalty had the ball-marker been moved such that the original position was not accurately marker.  That isn’t the case here though, because there is a ball in the original position, which means the position was still accurately marked.  Nice job on this one guys!

All in all, another great Quiz from the MGA.  I know they work on it together in the Rules office, but special kudos to whomever of the staff is the mastermind, I know what time and effort goes into an exam like this, so despite my minor grievances I know very well it is a well put-together and vetted quiz.  Cheers until next year…

If you liked the MGA exam and haven’t taken the West Coast Challenge, see for our Bluebook Quiz.  Find it under the Rules tab in the Know Your Rules archives.  Submit the answers online to get the explanations.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Rory's Throw and Stacy's Tree - WGC and HSBC Championships

            There has been just a little bit of discussion about Rory’s magnificent club throw this week during the WGC-Cadillac Championship.  Several questions have arisen regarding the Rules of Golf implications and they are worth further discussion:

Why Wasn’t Rory Disqualified?
Frankly, because the Tour doesn’t use Rule 33-7 to disqualify players for bad behavior.  Serious Breaches of Etiquette on Tour typically suffer a different consequence – Fines.  We will probably not find out how much that club throw cost Rory’s bank account, but you can be assured that he won’t go unpunished.
            Had the throw occurred in an NCGA Championship, NCAA event or pretty much any amateur competition, that magnificent throw would likely be what we call a “One-and-Done.”  This means that we would probably disqualify the player for a serious breach of etiquette under Rule 33-7 even if it were his first breach.  The throw is so egregious that it warrants more than a warning.

Why is He Allowed to Put it Back in His Bag?

            One key to answering this question is that the club was not damaged or altered.  It was simply thrown and then later recovered.  Had the club been damaged, putting it back into his bag today could bring about dire consequences if the club was damaged so that it was rendered non-conforming.  If it were non-conforming, he would incur a two-stroke penalty for each hole he carries the club with a maximum penalty of four strokes per round.  If he used the non-conforming club, he would be disqualified (Rule 4-1).
            However, the club was not damaged and has not been rendered non-conforming.  Therefore, he is entitled to add the club back to his bag like any other club, provided the total number of clubs carried does not exceed 14 (Rule 4-4).

Other golf fans may have been watching the end of a different tournament yesterday evening, as the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore concluded last night.  One notable incident occurred on the 12th hole.

Stacy Lewis and the Palm Tree

            Stacy’s second shot on the par-5 12th hole veered well left of target.  When she arrived in the area the ball was likely to be she could not find it, and some spectators in the area suggested that it never came down from the palm tree.  This was confirmed with television and Stacy was certain the ball was at rest in the palm tree.  Unfortunately (for her caddie), there is no Rule of Golf that provides relief (with or without penalty) for having virtual certainty a ball is in a tree.  If she could not find and identify her golf ball she would be required to proceed under penalty of stroke and distance for a lost ball (Ball not Found within Five Minutes, Rule 27-1c).
            Stacy elected to call a Rules Official, and for the sake of argument the official arrived within five minutes (although I think the official really did get there in time).  Using the cart as a ladder, Stacy’s caddie climbed up and found the ball.  Stacy was careful (under guidance of the official) to declare the ball unplayable in case her caddie moved it in the process of climbing the tree.  Apparently, what made this tree more dangerous were some bees or insects that no one really wanted to have to deal with.
            Since Stacy’s caddie found her ball, Stacy was able to use the third option of Rule 28 to drop the ball within two club-lengths of the point directly beneath where it lay in the tree (see Decision 28/11).  She made a mediocre pitch and an incredible putt to save par and stay in the hunt.