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. 

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