Wednesday, July 8, 2015

US Senior Open Championship in Review



                This year I was fortunate enough to be invited to serve as a Rules Official in the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club.  My assignment was as a walking official with a group on each of the first three rounds (I was unable to serve in the fourth round due to course setup for an event immediately following the Open).  From a Rules perspective I had a very quiet experience.  In the first round, the only two rules situations that occurred, the players handled themselves (one used a drop zone for a ball in the water hazard and another took relief from a sprinkler head).
                 
          During the second round I had two rulings with the same player.  The situations were actually quite straightforward but to my delight the player asked for the whole explanation and procedure.

  • On the 16th hole, the player hit his ball into the water crossing the hazard margin where it was marked as a lateral water hazard.  He called me over and first we determined where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard as his options would revolve around that point.  I explained he could drop within two club-lengths of that point, no nearer the hole (Rule 26-1c).  That would’ve resulted in playing from a side-hill lie.  He could also drop on a line, keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin directly between where the ball was dropped and the hole (Rule 26-1b).  I also told him he could play from the previous spot, which happened to be an awkward side-hill lie from the rough (Rule 26-1a). The opposite margin option was not feasible or practical and he was interested in using 26-1b. I stood behind and made sure the drop was directly on the “flagline.”  The drop rolled slightly closer (about a foot) to the hole, but as he was a good 15 yards back of the reference point, the ball was properly in play

  • On the 6th hole (our 15th), the player called me over near the putting green.  His ball had come to rest in a unique position such that he had two sprinkler heads directly on his line and a third  nearby.  He wanted relief for the sprinklers on his line of play.  The local Rule providing relief for line of play intervention for obstructions within two club-lengths of the putting green and within two club-lengths of the ball was in effect, however the USGA had implemented the Note that relief was only available if BOTH the ball and obstruction lay in a closely-mown area.  His ball was not in a closely-mown area (by an inch or two) so I explained relief for the line of play intervention was not available.  He started looking at the third sprinkler and I asked how he would play the stroke and he said he would like to putt it. I had him demonstrate his stance with the putter and sure enough, he had physical interference from the third sprinkler and was entitled to Rule 24-2 relief.  We determined his nearest point of relief and he measured one club-length actually over the sprinkler.  He asked if that was ok and I explained that yes, you can measure in any direction you wish, no nearer the hole, BUT the dropped ball must first strike the course at a spot that has no interference.  That spot happened to be on the fringe.  Two drops rolled onto the putting green, so I had him place at the spot where the second drop first struck the course and we went on our merry way.

            During the third round there was only one ruling and it was a bit of a doozie.  On the 16th hole, a 470 yard par-4 with water on the left and guarding the green, Olin Browne’s ball was at rest on the putting green.  PH Horgan hit his approach shot from 215 yards or so and sure enough, struck Browne’s ball at rest on the green!  We don’t get these collisions very often and yet I’ve had 4 in the last 2 USGA Championships I’ve worked.
The ruling was simple: the moved ball had to be replaced (Rule 18-5) and the striking ball was played as it lay, no penalty (Rule 19-5). The tricky part was determining where to replace Browne’s ball because we were all well away from the collision.  The forward observer had a look, but from a weird angle and still about 50 yards from the collision.  He pointed to the spot he thought he saw but the geometry didn’t make sense to me or the players.  Fortunately we had a spectator in the stands about 10 yards from the collision who helped us point to the exact spot where the ball needed to be replaced and that made perfect sense geometrically with where the two balls ended up.  Browne replaced the ball on the spot and again we were on our merry way. While we were walking to the green, Horgan joked with me, “One-stroke penalty for me right?” I laughed, but he said it so straight-faced I double-checked that he knew there was no penalty.
It was a great experience and as hot as it was (I was with late afternoon groups the first two days) I enjoyed getting experience walking with groups in a high-spectator, television viewing environment. Thanks to all the USGA staff involved for a great Open.

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