Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why?! Why the Tour Used a Rule They Shouldn't Have

            Today we witnessed something I hope we never have to see again (but I’m sure we will).  The PGA Tour implemented a local Rule that is technically against the Rules of Golf by implementing “Preferred Lies” through the green.  There are several reasons I want to draw attention to this:

1) This Local Rule is not permitted.

The Local Rule in the Appendix of the Rules of Golf does not allow for such a wide area to use “Preferred Lies” in.  Specifically, it states, “A ball lying in a closely-mown area through the green (or specify a MORE RESTRICTED area, e.g., at the 6th hole) may be lifted, without penalty, and cleaned. “ The Tour (and other entities over the years) decided to ignore that specific clause that states the Rule is not to be used more widely than closely-mown areas through the green.

2) There is an acceptable alternative.

The Local Rule in the Appendix IMMEDIATELY before “Preferred Lies” would have allowed the Tour to implement a similar rule anywhere through the green (technically anywhere on the course).  The difference is that this local Rule requires the ball to be Replaced, rather than allowing a specified area the ball could be moved and placed within.  This is a far better Rule to use because it requires the player to stay in the spot and lie that his previous stroke earned.  It does not permit the player to improve their situation by moving it out of a birds-nest lie, or slightly muddier spot.  This Rule could be legally used through the green and would have been a much better alternative.  Frankly, even when only applying this to closely-mown areas I use “Lift, Clean and Replace” rather than “Preferred Lies” because it solves the issue (mud balls) without allowing players to improve their lies.

3) It sets a bad example.

I will now have to answer questions from many of our officials and others about this situation.  If the Tour did it, why can’t we?  I will be clear, just because the Tour did it, does not make it right.  And while “the Committee is always right even when they’re wrong,” by implementing this Local Rule they basically had the Tour playing something other than golf.  Remember that a Local Rule is not whatever the Committee decides they want to do.  Rule 33-8 states that, “The Committee may establish Local Rules for local abnormal conditions if they are consistent with the policy set forth in Appendix I.” The second part of Rule 33-8 also states, “A Rule of Golf must not be waived by a Local Rule.” By using “Preferred Lies” through the green, the Tour not only waived a Rule of Golf, but implemented a Local Rule that was not consistent with the policies in Appendix I.

4) It let players get away with bad shots.

We heard constantly throughout the telecast how players were getting out of bad lies because of the ability to move the ball around.  This is why lift, clean and replace should have been used (and frankly should always be used in these wet, muddy type situations in my opinion).  Players were able to escape the lies that their wayward shots placed them in.  That’s not what golf is about.  “Play the ball as it lies and play the course as you find it.”

So why did they do it?

While clearly I do not condone what the Tour decided to do, I understand the reasoning.  (And I am not a mind reader so this is my best educated guess) The course had taken on a substantial amount of water, rendering large portions of it close to unplayable.  Getting four rounds of golf in is extremely important and even the Tour VP in charge of this event stated that the course could not take on much more or else the rest of the round would have to be suspended or even cancelled.

By using “Preferred Lies” through the green, the Tour was able to have the course playable for a potentially longer period of time and more quickly by not having to squeegee or clean up large areas in the rough that would otherwise have been slightly more penal than intended.  It also allowed them to skip mowing in areas where the mowers would have destroyed the turf because it was so wet.  The “Preferred Lies” was used in large part because they were not able to prepare the course to normal standards rendering some areas in the rough far more penal than intended.

I’ve seen “Preferred Lies” through the green used once before, but only because the course was in such poor condition it was not possible to differentiate between closely-mown areas and areas that were not closely-mown.  In those two cases, again, I don’t condone it, but I understand the reasoning.

My last message would be to our officials in the field who read the blog and may be serving as tournament chairs for our qualifiers in the future:  it isn’t permitted, don’t do it.  If you feel something like it must be done, see the acceptable alternative above and make sure you are in contact with the staff person in charge of the championship.  That kind of decision must not be made without staff knowledge and approval.

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