Category: R&A

November 19, 2013

USGA: 'Difficult to speculate' if new rule would change Tiger penalty

Posted at 3:03 PM by Mike Walker

When the USGA and R&A announced a rule change involving video evidence of a player accidentally causing a ball to move, most golf fans thought of Tiger Woods being assessed a two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship when a PGA Tour video producer saw Woods' ball move while he tried to move a twig near his ball [see video above].

Under the new rule -- effective Jan. 1, 2014 -- a golfer who unwittingly moves his golf ball during competition may not be penalized if the ball's movement could not reasonably have been detected without the use of "enhanced technology."

That must mean that the Woods case -- where the penalty was determined after a close look at the video evidence -- would not have resulted in a penalty under the new rule, right? Not so fast. USGA rules official Thomas Pagel told's Josh Sens that it is impossible to know if Woods would have received the same penalty under the new rule.

“It’s very difficult to go back in time and speculate,” Pagel said. “The committee at the time was faced with one question -- did the ball move? -- and the evidence showed that it did. Moving forward, a number of other factors will have to be taken into consideration, including what the player could reasonably have been expected to see.”

You can read the full text of the rule change at

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July 17, 2013

R&A's Peter Dawson: Men's only clubs are not 'moral issue'

Posted at 8:38 AM by Jeff Ritter

Peter-DawsonGULLANE, Scotland -- The Royal and Ancient held its annual press conference here Wednesday afternoon, and the club's chief executive Peter Dawson endured a tense 45-minute session that included several questions about Muirfield's men-only membership policy and drug testing in golf. The highlights:


Q: As you said, single-sex clubs are legal, but morally, what's the difference between men only and whites only?
DAWSON: Oh, goodness me. I think that's a ridiculous question, if I may say so. There's a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly, indeed. And to compare that with a men's golf club I think is frankly absurd. There's no comparison whatsoever.

Q: To reference your earlier remarks, you made it seem as if there was a restless urge to drive Muirfield into extinction. But I'm not sure that's really the case. No one disputes Muirfield's right to cite its membership policy, but is the issue that the R&A is avowedly committed to growing the game throughout the world, and yet you bring the Open to a venue that excludes half the population. Is that not a moral dilemma?
DAWSON: I understand the point, obviously. What I dispute is the fact of the matter that is does harm participation. I think the Open Championship at this absolutely magnificent venue enhances participation hugely. It's going to be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world…and I think that we will find that golfers, men and women, are inspired by what they see. I don't think people are sitting there thinking, 'Oh, this wonderful place, but…' I really don't. But we're aware of that view. I don't quite regard it as a moral issue. I think the practical side of it takes over my mind. To think that it would be a good thing for the Open Championship not to play it here, and perhaps to reduce the number of venues from nine to six in the UK, I could only imagine would do great harm to the championship, and not enhance it at all.

Q: You got a bit upset earlier about the comparison between whites-only and men-only clubs, but you said you don't regard it as a moral issue. It doesn't do anyone any harm. Could you just explain to the 10 women in the room why racism is unacceptable and sexism clearly still is?
DAWSON: Well, I don't really think, to be honest, and we could sit here all day and debate this, but I don't really think that a golf club, which has a policy of being a place where like-minded men or, indeed, like-minded women, go and want to play golf together and do their thing together ranks up against some of these other forms of discrimination. I really just don't think they're comparable, and I don't think they're damaging. And it's just kind of, for some people, a way of life that they rather like. I don't think in doing that they're intending to do others down or intending to do others any harm. It's just a way of life that some of these people like. And realistically, that's all it is. You can dress it up and be a lot more if you want, but on Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that's not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things. It's just what people kind of do.


Q: It's been six years, almost to the day, since Gary Player spoke about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs in golf. In the years that have passed, have you spoken to Gary Player about what he knows? And what have you done about it?
DAWSON: Yes, I have spoken to Gary Player, and I don't think I found very much out, to be honest, in specific terms. But you just can't be complacent about these things. All you can do, I think is to ensure that players are properly educated, and that your drug-testing regime or anti-doping policies do as much as they can to trap miscreants. We must not be complacent here. I have no particular evidence of a problem. Everything I hear is anecdotal and hasn't had very much specific behind it that I can latch on to, to be honest.

Q: You said you didn't learn much from your conversation with Gary Player. Can I ask, did one of the world's greatest ever golfers confirm to you that he knew of players that were taking banned substances?
DAWSON: No, he did not.

Q: That is what he said six years ago, he said he knew of players --
DAWSON: Just to make that clear, what I mean by that is, he certainly didn't name any names, and therefore, I'm not sure what you can do with that information, other than be aware there may be a problem, and put in the policies to deal with it.

Q: How hard did you press him? Because there are quite serious allegations from a very, very, very respected golfer.
DAWSON: Yes, well, quite frankly, I don't remember how hard I pressed him. It's quite a long time ago now.

(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)


May 01, 2013

USGA, R&A release statement on Tiger Woods's illegal drop ruling at the Masters

Posted at 10:42 AM by

The USGA and R&A -- golf's official ruling bodies -- released a joint statement concerning the controversy surrounding Tiger Woods's two-stroke penalty at the Masters for an illegal drop on the 15th hole during the second round. Read the statement in its entirety below.


Far Hills, N.J., USA and St Andrews, Scotland (May 1, 2013) - The United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A, golf's governing bodies, today released the following statement to provide guidance to players and Rules officials on the Rules decision involving Tiger Woods at the 2013 Masters Tournament.

During the second round, Tiger Woods played his third stroke from the fairway of the 15th hole to the putting green, where his ball struck the flagstick and deflected into the water hazard in front of the green. He elected to take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 26-1a, incurring a one-stroke penalty (his fourth stroke on the hole). He then dropped and played a ball to the putting green (his fifth stroke), and holed his putt. After finishing his round, he signed and returned his score card, recording a score of 6 for the 15th hole.

Before Woods returned his score card, the Masters Tournament Committee had received an inquiry from a television viewer questioning whether Woods had dropped his ball in a wrong place. After reviewing the available video, but without talking with Woods, the Committee ruled that he had complied with Rule 26-1a and that no penalty had been incurred. The following morning, after additional questions had been raised about the incident in a Woods television interview, the Committee talked with Woods, reviewed the video with him and reversed its decision, ruling that he had incurred a two-stroke penalty for dropping in and playing from a wrong place in breach of Rules 26-1a and 20-7c.

This also meant that, in returning his score card the previous day, Woods had breached Rule 6-6d by returning a score (6) for the 15th hole that was lower than his actual score (8). The penalty for such a breach of Rule 6-6d is disqualification. Under Rule 33-7 ("Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion"), a Committee has discretion to waive that penalty in "exceptional individual cases." As discussed below, the Committee elected to invoke that discretion and waived Woods' penalty of disqualification.

Explanation of the Rulings

This situation raised two questions of interpretation under the Rules of Golf.
1. The Ruling that Woods Dropped in and Played from a Wrong Place

The first question was whether, after taking relief, Woods played his next stroke in accordance with the Rules. The Masters Tournament Committee ultimately answered no and imposed a two-stroke penalty because Woods did not drop and play a ball "as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played," as required under Rule 26-1a. The Rules do not define "as nearly as possible" in terms of a specific measured distance, because the conditions unique to each situation can affect how near to the original spot it is possible to drop a ball and because dropping a ball is an imprecise act. But in this type of situation, in which that original spot was clearly identifiable as being just behind the back edge of the divot hole created by Woods' previous stroke and in which there were no other unusual circumstances, "as nearly as possible" means that the player must attempt to drop the ball on or next to (but not nearer the hole than) that spot. Woods did not do so. In his post-round media comments, he stated that he dropped the ball about two yards behind that divot hole. Although the precise distance away was not determined, he clearly dropped the ball a significant distance away from that spot and did not satisfy the "as nearly as possible" requirement in these circumstances. As a result, he was penalized two strokes for dropping in and playing from a wrong place.

2. The Decision to Waive the Penalty of Disqualification
The second question was whether the Committee was permitted to waive the penalty of disqualification that otherwise applied to Woods under Rule 6-6d, which provides that a competitor "is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his score card. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified." For nearly 60 years, the Rules have provided Committees with limited discretion to waive a disqualification penalty. Under Rule 33-7, "[a] penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted."

Such discretion is not intended to protect a competitor from the consequences of his erroneous application of the Rules. The fact that Woods, when he returned his score card, was not aware that he had incurred a two-stroke penalty on the 15th hole was not a basis to waive disqualification under Rule 33-7. Moreover, contrary to what some have suggested, the decision of the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty for Woods was not and could not have been based on Decision 33-7/4.5, a 2011 Decision that permits waiver of disqualification where "the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules." That extremely narrow exception, which relates generally to use of high-definition or slow-motion video to identify facts not reasonably visible to the naked eye, was not applicable here and had no bearing on the Committee's decision. Woods was aware of the only relevant fact: the location of the spot from which he last played his ball. His two-stroke penalty resulted from an erroneous application of the Rules, which he was responsible for knowing and applying correctly. Viewing the incident solely from the standpoint of Woods' actions, there was no basis to waive the penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d.

However, the Masters Tournament Committee did not base its exercise of discretion under Rule 33-7 on any circumstances specific to Woods' knowledge, but rather on the consequences of the Committee's own actions. Before Woods had returned his score card for the second round, the Committee had received an inquiry from a television viewer questioning whether Woods, in taking relief under Rule 26-1a at the 15th hole, had dropped his ball sufficiently close to the spot from which he had played his original ball. The Committee promptly reviewed an available video and determined that Woods had dropped and played correctly under Rule 26-1a and therefore had not incurred a penalty. The Committee did not talk with Woods before making this ruling or inform him of the ruling. Woods therefore signed and returned his score card without knowledge of the Committee's ruling or the questions about his drop on the 15th hole. The following morning, after additional questions had been raised about the incident in a television interview, the Committee discussed the incident with Woods, reviewed the video with him and reversed its decision, ruling that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place.

In deciding to waive the disqualification penalty, the Committee recognized that had it talked to Woods - before he returned his score card - about his drop on the 15th hole and about the Committee's ruling, the Committee likely would have corrected that ruling and concluded that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place. In that case, he would have returned a correct score of 8 for the 15th hole and the issue of disqualification would not have arisen.

The Decisions on the Rules of Golf authorize a Committee to correct an incorrect decision before the competition has closed, and they establish that where a Committee incorrectly advises a competitor, before he returns his score card, that he has incurred no penalty, and then subsequently corrects its mistake, it is appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty. See Decision 34-3/1. The Woods situation differed from the situation in Decision 34-3/1, and in other Decisions that protect a competitor from disqualification where the competitor has relied on erroneous information from a referee or the Committee, in that Woods was not informed of the Committee's initial ruling and therefore did not rely on the Committee's advice in returning his score card. This situation therefore raised a question not expressly addressed in the existing Decisions under Rules 33-7 and 34-3 and that reflected two competing considerations. On the one hand, the Decisions provide that the player's responsibility for his own score is not excused by his ignorance or misapplication of the Rules. On the other hand, the Decisions provide that a Committee may correct an erroneous decision and may take its error into account in determining whether it is appropriate to waive the penalty of disqualification. In effect, based on all of the facts discussed above, in this case both the competitor and the Committee reached an incorrect decision before the score card was returned.

The Masters Tournament Committee concluded that its actions taken prior to Woods' returning his score card created an exceptional individual case that unfairly led to the potential for disqualification. In hindsight, the Committee determined that its initial ruling was incorrect, as well as that it had erred in resolving this question without first seeking information from Woods and in failing to inform Woods of the ruling. Given the unusual combination of facts - as well as the fact that nothing in the existing Rules or Decisions specifically addressed such circumstances of simultaneous competitor error and Committee error - the Committee reasonably exercised its discretion under Rule 33-7 to waive the penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d, while still penalizing Woods two strokes under Rules 26-1a and 20-7c for playing from a wrong place.

Scope of Committee Discretion to Waive a Penalty of Disqualification for Failure to Return Correct Score
Since this ruling at the 2013 Masters Tournament, the USGA and The R&A have received various inquiries about the scope of a Committee's discretion to waive a penalty of disqualification where the player has failed to return a correct score card. The Woods ruling was based on exceptional facts, as required by Rule 33-7, and should not be viewed as a general precedent for relaxing or ignoring a competitor's essential obligation under the Rules to return a correct score card. Further, although a Committee should do its best to alert competitors to potential Rules issues that may come to its attention, it has no general obligation to do so; and the fact that a Committee may be aware of such a potential issue before the competitor returns his score card should not, in and of itself, be a basis for waiving a penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d. Only a rare set of facts, akin to the exceptional facts at the 2013 Masters Tournament as summarized in the previous paragraphs, would justify a Committee's use of its discretion to waive a penalty of disqualification for returning an incorrect score card.

Future Review
The USGA and The R&A continuously work to monitor and assess the Rules of Golf in practice, to observe and incorporate the lessons of experience, and, as appropriate, to clarify and revise the Rules and Decisions to ensure that the Rules operate in the best interests of the game and that their appropriate interpretation and application are understood and consistently followed. In recent years, the USGA and The R&A have been assessing the Rules that relate to score cards and disqualification. As part of this ongoing assessment, and in keeping with this regular practice, the Rules of Golf Committees of the USGA and The R&A will review the exceptional situation that occurred at the 2013 Masters Tournament, assess the potential implications for other types of situations, and determine whether any adjustment to the Rules and/or the Decisions is appropriate.

March 01, 2013

USGA, R&A end comment on anchored-putting ban

Posted at 2:21 PM by Coleman McDowell

"Thanks for sharing."

The USGA and the R&A have ended the lively 90-day comment period that was part of the process of their proposal to ban anchored putting strokes. During the last 90 days, the PGA Tour and the PGA of America have asked the USGA to reconsider the ban. PGA Tour commission Tim Finchem said that the USGA had not demonstrated that anchoring is a competitive advantage, and the PGA of America said the ban could "infringe on the enjoyment of the game."

With the cut-off for comments reached, USGA officials said it will review all feedback received about the rule change before taking action. If the USGA and R&A decide to move forward with the ban, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The USGA and The R&A proposed the new entry, Rule 14-1b, on Nov. 28.

“The 90-day comment period on proposed Rule 14-1b has been very constructive and we appreciate the thoughtfulness of everyone who offered feedback. We received comments, questions and suggestions from recreational golfers, golf professionals and organizations representing many segments of the golf community. The discussion has been informative and serves as a strong reminder of just how passionate golfers are about the game -– no matter their position on this specific issue.”

“For well over a year, the golf community has engaged in a healthy and spirited discussion about anchoring, as well as other important issues confronting the game. Throughout this period, we have worked to explain the intent of Rule 14-1b, which aims to clarify and preserve the traditional and essential nature of the golf stroke that has helped to make golf a unique and enjoyable game of skill and challenge for centuries.”

“As the comment period comes to a close, we will continue to review and evaluate the feedback that we have received. As we have throughout this process, we will continue to confer with the R&A in our work to reach a final resolution on this matter.”

Three of the past five major champions have used a belly putter, including Ernie Els (2012 British Open), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship).

At the moment, the PGA Tour has not said it will go against the USGA's ruling, only that it disagrees with the USGA's stance. Despite the Tour's opposition the ban, prominent players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have all voiced support for banning anchored putting strikes.

"My position hasn't changed," Woods said after his pro-am round at PGA National. "I still think it should be swung, it shouldn't be anchored, and that hasn't changed at all."

"I understand his position," Woods said of Finchem. "But I still feel that all 14 clubs should be swung. That hasn't changed at all."

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