Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Little Late: McDowell's Buzzing Impediment

     I apologize for the delay in addressing this unique ruling, especially since it occurred during the Masters and received some notoriety, but I think others covered it fairly well.
    During the final round of the Masters, McDowell was correctly not penalized for accidentally moving his ball-marker on the putting green in the process of swatting away a bee.  Apparently, he was initially penalized for the breach and then another official came and informed him there was no penalty.  McDowell was light-hearted about the situation and took the initial incorrect stroke penalty to heart, saying he'd been careless and deserved a penalty.
    The interesting part of this ruling was that a bee is considered to be a loose impediment.  In fact, insects are loose impediments by definition, provided they are not fixed, solidly embedded or adhering to the ball (in the first two cases I would hope the insects were deceased for their own sake). Since the Definition tells us that the insect is a loose impediment, we go to the loose impediment Rule, 23-1 and see that, "On the putting green is the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of the player removing a loose impediment, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the movement of the loose impediment."
    The interesting part of this situation was the initial assessment of the penalty, followed by the correction.  My guess is that the initial understanding of the facts was incorrect, and I've witnessed this happen in one of my own rulings.  Because the movement must be directly-attributable (see Decision 20-1/15), depending on how the situation was initially explained, one official may have misunderstood how the ball-marker was actually moved.
    Three years ago, or perhaps four, I was called to the putting green for a ruling for Pedro Figueredo during the Western Intercollegiate (sorry if I butchered the spelling).  The facts as given to me by Pedro and his fellow-competitors, were that his ball-marker had been moved in the process of making practice strokes near the ball.  They waved the putter, demonstrated the movements and stated that he'd accidentally moved the marker during that process.  I confirmed over the radio for the players that Pedro incurred a one-stroke penalty for the movement and had to replace the marker.  Practice strokes are not a reason that excuse the player from penalty for moving the ball-marker.
     Later that day, I conferred with one of my Committee members who told me about another ruling in that same group where a player accidentally moved his ball-marker in the process of moving some loose sand on the putting green.  The player was correctly not assessed a penalty, when Pedro's teammate spoke up and said, "That's not what we got earlier!"  Well, if you change the facts you get a different answer.  I explained to the Committee member the set of facts given to me earlier, and he stated how the story had started to change.  The next morning Pedro's coach approached me about the situation, stating the changed set of facts, and I told him what was told to me on the course. I confirmed the version of the facts as given to me over the radio in front of the players, had I stated them incorrectly they had every opportunity to say so.  The changing facts were disconcerting and in talking to the coach it was unclear which version he felt was correct and the decision was made to stick with the initial ruling based on the initial facts.
     So back to McDowell, I don't think the changing rulings should raise any alarm, it's just a matter of making sure they got the facts straight.  A unique incident nonetheless.

Knowing the Conditions of the Competition

Rule 6-1 states, “The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules.  During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his Caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.”
It is important to note that the term Rule does not refer only to the 34 Rules listed in the book.  The definition of Rule tells us that the term Rule really refers to those 34 Rules in the Rules of Golf AND the interpretations in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf.  Rule also includes any Condition of the Competition established by the Committee, any Local Rule established by the Committee and all the specifications on equipment matters found in Appendices II-IV and “A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls.”
That is a whole bunch of stuff the player and caddie need to know.  And as we’ve seen, most players and caddies do not know all of those items, in fact most Rules Officials need to (and should) refer to the text of those items before making rulings.  That doesn’t let the player off the hook, especially when it comes to things like the Conditions of the Competition.
The Conditions are typically provided on the entry form, the tournament organization’s “Hard Card” (Local Rules and Conditions that are in effect for every tournament the organization runs) or on the Notice to Players/Competitors.  Common Conditions include the requirements that the driver be listed on the List of Conforming Driver Heads, or that the ball used is listed on the List of Conforming Golf Balls.  The PGA Tour utilizes the Note to Rule 7-2, which prohibits practice or testing/rolling a ball on or near the putting green of the last hole.  Another popular Condition is the Transportation Condition which prohibits caddies and players from using automotive transportation during the stipulated round.
The text of this Condition can be found at Appendix I-C and is relatively simple in its prohibition, not quite as simple in its penalty.  This Condition carries a “maximum penalty per round/adjustment to the state of the match” penalty statement.  This is like Rule 4 and 6-4 penalties where if the player or caddie rides for two or more holes, the player will incur a maximum penalty per round (two hole adjustment in match play, 4 strokes in stroke play, 2 per hole).
During the European Tour’s Shenzhen Invitational on Friday, Edoardo Molinari’s caddie forgot about this Condition and hopped on a cart to catch a ride between the 9th and 10th holes. Because the breach was between the play of two holes, Molinari should have incurred a two stroke penalty on the 10th hole (it is considered a single hole breach), however, Molinari’s caddie never mentioned that he had ridden in a cart and so Molinari never knew he was subject to a penalty.
Molinari completed the round and returned his score card – without the two-stroke penalty – and left for home. Since the issue was discovered prior to the close of competition, the Committee was required to disqualify Molinari for returning a score lower than that which was actually taken in breach of Rule 6-6d.  Even though Molinari was unaware that his caddie had breached the Rules, he was still responsible for any breach of the Rules by his caddie during the stipulated round and therefore he needed to include that penalty on his scorecard. 

Fortunately (if you want to look at it that way), Molinari had already shot a 75 and was not in great position in the event, but in professional golf, every missed cut is missed money, so ouch. This is a great reminder to all players that they should always read all information containing Conditions of the Competition prior to starting an event.