Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jon Rahm and the New Decision

            For those who have been following recent Rules events in golf and were watching the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this morning, the result of no penalty for Jon Rahm may seem very confusing.  What happened was really one of the first major instances where a Committee used the “reasonable judgment” standard in the brand-new Decision 34-3/10.
            On an earlier hole, Jon Rahm’s ball came to rest in a position where his ball-marker would have to be placed on top of his fellow-competitor’s ball-marker, so he marked it to the side of the ball, and then spanned the marker one putter-head to the side.  When he spanned the marker back, it appeared fairly clear that he replaced the ball directly in front of his ball-marker, rather than to the side of it as he had originally. He played from the new position and therefore was potentially subject to penalty for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 16-1b (the Rule that allows players to mark & lift the ball on the putting green).
            European Tour Rules Official Andy McFee (apologies if misspelled), pulled Rahm aside to discuss the situation with him. The details of the discussion are no public, but essentially from Rahm’s testimony, McFee determined that Rahm was aware of the awkward marking and used his best judgment to replace the ball in its original spot and was therefore no penalty was applied.  Several months ago, the video evidence would have trumped this testimony, however Decision 34-3/10, introduced after the controversial Lexi Thompson situation at the ANA Inspiration, saved Rahm from penalty.
            Specifically, when referring to this exact type situation the new Decision states, “A ‘reasonable judgment’ standard is applied in evaluating the player’s actions in these situations: so long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted even if later shown to be wrong by the use of video evidence.” [Emphasis Added]
            In order to apply this standard, the Committee must take several factors into consideration to determine whether a player has done what can reasonably be expected. Two of the bullets listed in the Decision as important factors play a key role in the Rahm ruling: 1) the player’s explanation and 2) the amount by which the location was wrong in relation to the type of determination made.  In this case, Rahm stated (according to sources) that he remembered he had marked the ball to the side and specifically remembered trying to get the ball back to the exact spot. While video evidence showed the spot to be probably incorrect, the amount by which it was incorrect was not significant enough to definitively say the player did not meet the reasonable judgment standard.

            To make things more interesting, while Rahm was discussing this ruling with McFee, a spectator had picked up and moved his ball in play in the rough and Rahm was immediately faced with another rules situation. A referee was on site and through Rule 20-3c made sure the ball was replaced properly under the Rules (in this case by dropping).

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