Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Interesting Notes from the Honda Classic



            Finally, during a 2015 PGA Tour event we had a couple of notable Rules situations.  There was nothing controversial, but I’ve received several questions about the procedures in these two situations:

Dropping on the Putting Green

            On the 17th hole at PGA National, throughout the championship, spectators may have noticed players dropping on the putting green.  Immediately cell phones were pulled out and emails flew in various directions, several headed toward me.  There was nothing incorrect about these drops as there are actually FOUR Rules that allow a player to drop on the putting green.

Rule 26-1:
When taking relief from a water hazard, the Rule does not differentiate between parts of the course.  It simply states that the ball must be dropped in the places specified by the Rule. In the event of stroke and distance, if the previous spot was on the putting green, that would result in a place (Tiger Woods in the 2005 Masters after putting into Rae’s Creek on the 13th hole). However, under all the other options of the water hazard Rule, if you are able to get to the putting green (it would require a very oddly shaped green in the case of Rule 26-1b) with you options, then the ball must be dropped. 
In the case of the 17th hole at PGA National, the way the defining line was placed, two club-lengths from where the ball last crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard was able to reach the putting green in several cases.  In those cases the player was required to drop the ball on the putting green.
Rule 28:
Rule 28 also offers stroke and distance as one of the options in which case we go to Rule 20-5 again as to whether there is a place or drop.  However, under Rules 28b and c, if the ball is unplayable outside of a bunker and the “flagline” (28b) or two club-lengths from where the ball lay (28c) reach the putting green, the ball must be dropped on the green.
Rule 24-2b:
Frequently forgotten is a penalty option under Rule 24-2b.  If the ball lies in a bunker and has interference from an immovable obstruction the player may use a “flagline” (keeping the point where the ball lay between the hole and where the ball is dropped) and drop the ball outside (behind) the bunker.  In the case of an “island” bunker like the 6th hole at Riviera or another kind of oddly shaped green, this may provide for a drop on the putting green.
Rule 25-1b:
The same penalty option to get out of a bunker exists for a ball that has interference from an abnormal ground condition in a bunker.  If the “flagline” behind the bunker happens to be on the putting green the ball must be dropped, rather than placed.

Lift, Clean and Place ("Preferred Lies"):

           For at least the final round, (and probably the third as well), the Local Rule allowing a player to lift, clean and place his ball in a closely-mown area through the green was in effect.  The most interesting occurrence of this that I witness was during the play-off.  When Berger hit his tee shot on the second play-off hole into the water on the 17th hole, he elected to use the drop zone as his ball never crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard near the green. We witnessed him drop the ball, and then mark, lift, clean and place his ball.  Why not just let him place it in the drop zone?

           The answer is simple.  In order to use lift, clean and place (also known as preferred lies), the ball must have a home on the golf course that is in a closely-mown area through the green (or SMALLER area as defined by the Committee).  Since his ball was in a water hazard, until he dropped the ball, his ball did not have a home on the course and he could not use lift, clean and place to simply set the ball down in the drop zone.  Once he dropped the ball, the ball was at rest and had a home on the course, so he could then mark, lift, clean and place the ball back down. See Appendix I-B-4 for more about “Preferred Lies” or other specimen Local Rules regarding course conditions.

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