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.

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