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.

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