Saturday, April 16, 2016

Villegas [Not] Embedded Ball

     During the first round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town we witnessed a unique exchange between Camillo Villegas and PGA Tour Rules Official Gary Young.  Villegas' ball had come to rest buried and embedded in a pile of pine straw and sand.  Villegas called for a ruling to make sure he dropped correctly and was surprised when the official denied him relief. He called in Young for a second opinion and was again disappointed.
     From the video there is no doubt that Villegas' ball was plugged but it was plugged in the sand and some of the loose impediments that surround the course at Harbour Town.  While the local Rule entitling a player to relief for a ball embedded in its own pitch-mark through the green was in effect (as it is for all PGA Tour events per their Hard Card), there is a little-known exception to the Local Rule: "A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely-mown."
    So yes, Villegas' ball may have been embedded, however, because it was embedded in sand in an area that was not closely-mown he was not entitled to relief.   Young correctly ruled that the ball needed to break the surface of the actual ground and not just the sand and loose material on top of the ground in order for Villegas to be entitled to free relief.

   

Friday, April 8, 2016

Masters Ruling: Huh?

               On the 18th hole during the second round of the Masters, Bryson Dechambeau found himself in a tie for second place, but also far further left than he had wanted and already laying 3 after using the stroke and distance option of the Ball Unplayable Rule (Rule 28). However, his ball had come to rest in a unique position near a concession area that was defined by the Committee as a temporary immovable obstruction.  One of the options a Committee may make available to a player for intervention by a TIO (intervention is when the TIO intervenes on a player’s line of play and directly between the ball and the hole), is that the player may find the nearest point where relief is available on either side of the TIO, without penalty.
                Dechambeau used this option to go to the other side of the concession area. One thing that makes TIO rulings complicated is that the local Rule (see Appendix I-A-4b) states that a player still has interference if the ball is within one club-length of a point where intervention exists.  For that reason, the Rules official terminology for the relief procedure is “more than one, less than two.”  This is why there were two tees where Dechambeau had measured the one club-length from the nearest point where intervention did not exist.  He was then required to drop within a club-length beyond that initial measured area.
                TIO intervention situations don’t occur often in amateur events, so Dechambeau actually dropped the ball inside the one club-length “alley-way” the first time.  Dechambeau was required to correct this mistake under Rule 20-6 and the referee correctly told him to pick up the ball and drop it again outside the “alley-way”.  From this point on, the only way the ruling makes sense is if that ball came to rest within two club-lengths of where it first struck the course on the drop, and if that is the case the referee did an amazing job in an incredibly complex situation. 
So if the ball was at rest on the road within two club-lengths of where the drop had struck the course, it was properly in play and the next step was for Dechambeau to take relief from the road, an immovable obstruction, by finding his nearest point of relief and dropping within one club-length of that point, no nearer the hole (Rule 24-2b). The referee determined that the nearest point of relief had to be on the opposite side of the road (which it would have been) from where he was originally and had him proceed accordingly. Both of his drops rolled back onto the road, so Rule 20-2c required him to place the ball where it first struck the course on the re-drop.

However, upon watching the situation unfold and then after carefully reviewing the video footage, it appears that the ball came to rest well over two club-lengths from where it first struck the course on the second drop. If that is the case, Dechambeau should have been required to re-drop the ball, and if it rolled more than two club-lengths again he would have placed it – on the original (right-hand) side of the road.  If he were then standing on the road, he would have been entitled to relief, but his nearest point of relief would more than likely have remained on that original side of the road.  The apparent misstep actually worked to Dechambeau’s benefit as he was able to advance the ball to the green more easily from where he eventually ended up.
Either way, because Dechambeau was acting under the guidance of the referee, he would be absolved from the ball ending up in the wrong place.