Category: Rules of Golf


December 02, 2013

Judge: Playing partners not legally obligated to yell 'Fore!'

Posted at 3:50 PM by Mike Walker

If your playing partner hits his drive long and wide, do you have a legal responsibility to yell, “Fore!”?

No, says New Jersey Superior Court Judge Thomas Vena.

Judge Vena’s ruling was part of a case involving an errant tee shot that injured a golfer’s eye at Skyview Golf Course in Sparta, N.J. The Newark Star-Ledger has the details:

James Corino needed multiple procedures to restore vision to his right eye after he was struck by an errant mulligan as he prepared to hit a shot from the 15th fairway at Sparta’s Skyview Golf Course two years ago.

The trouble was, in a clear violation of golfing rules and etiquette, no one bothered to yell “fore,” Corino claims.

The ball struck by Kyle Duffy sliced off the neighboring 16th tee, shattering Corino’s sunglasses, the broken shards of glass cutting his eye, Corino also claims.

In his ruling, Judge Vena sounds like he consulted both New Jersey law and the rules of golf in clearing playing partners Bryan Chovanec and Thomas Schweizer of wrongdoing.

“Plaintiff (Corino) has failed to provide any evidence to demonstrate that Mr. Chovanec and Mr. Schweizer were obligated to yell fore or otherwise warn Mr. Corino of Mr. Duffy’s errant shot,” the judge wrote. “That duty, according to the Rules, belonged solely to the acting player, Mr. Duffy.”

But while his playing partners are no longer involved, Duffy is still the defendant in Corino’s lawsuit. The lesson for all us golfers: Always yell “fore!” after a wayward tee shot, it doesn’t cost you anything and it could save everyone a bunch.

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 Golf.com'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 USGA.org.

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USGA: No penalty if player doesn't see ball move

Posted at 8:33 AM by Josh Sens

Rules_300A golfer who unwittingly moves his ball during competition may not be penalized if that movement could not reasonably have been detected without the use of “enhanced technology.”

That’s the word Tuesday morning from the USGA and the R&A, which have been busy grappling with the growing impact of video evidence in the reporting of potential rules violations.

In a joint statement, released as part of their biennial review of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf, the governing bodies declared that a “ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time.”

Seen no evil? Then you've done no evil, either.

The announcement comes in the wake of season marked by several headline-making incidents in which rules infractions came to light by way of video evidence.

Of those incidents, none was more closely scrutinized than one involving Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship in September, where the world’s top-ranked player was slapped with a two-shot penalty after cameras showed that his ball had moved as he prepared to play his third shot on the first hole of his second round. Woods insisted that his ball had merely oscillated.

But if oscillate-gate is what many fans will think of when they read Tuesday's joint statement, it’s far from the only incident that golf’s ruling bodies had in mind.

After all, questions about the influence of video evidence on the game have been simmering for some time.

In April 2011, the USGA and the R&A adopted decision 33-7/5.4, which waived disqualification for a player who signed an incorrect scorecard following a round in which that player committed a rules infraction that was later identified through video evidence.

(As golf wonks may recall, it was the invocation of that rule which spared Woods from disqualification at the 2013 Masters.)

According to Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf, this latest rules revision, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, was “not a reaction to any one single incident.” Rather, he said, it was part of an ongoing effort by golf’s ruling bodies to respond appropriately to developments in the game.

Pagel said it was impossible to know whether the revised rule on golf-ball movement, had it been in place at this year’s BMW, would have changed the outcome of the Tiger Woods ruling.

“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.”

In the joint statement, the governing bodies announced other rules revisions, including one that allows players to access weather reports on their smart phones during their round without incurring a pentalty.

In the meantime, the statement also said, the USGA and R&A will continue to discuss issues surrounding the impact of video technology on the application of rules, including  the “necessary degree of precision required when marking, lifting and replacing a ball, the estimation of a reference point for taking relief, and the overall question of the appropriate penalty for returning an incorrect scorecard where the player was unaware that a penalty had been incurred.”

To read the joint statement, as well as the full text of the revisions to “Decisions on the Rules of Golf,” visit usga.org or randa.org

Photo: The 1951 edition of "The Rules of Golf"

October 29, 2013

Already penalized, Dyson could face further punishment for Shanghai rules violation

Posted at 12:16 PM by Josh Sens

Simon-dyson_640
For Simon Dyson, disqualification may not be enough.

The English pro now faces a possible fine or suspension from the European Tour in the wake of an incident at the BMW Masters tournament in Shanghai last week, where he was DQ'd for apparently tampering with his putting line.

After marking his ball on the eighth green of Friday's second round, Dyson appeared to tamp down his line with his ball, smoothing out what looked to be a spike mark. As with so many headline rules violations of late, a TV viewer saw the incident and alerted tournament officials. Tampering with a line is forbidden under the Rules of Golf and carries a two-stroke penalty. Dyson was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

At the time of the incident, the 35-year-old Dyson was in second place. The DQ not only cost him a paycheck. It also hurt his chances of qualifying for the European Tour's season finale in Dubai.

But even that punishment may not be enough.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph, four members of the Tour's players' committee reviewed footage of the incident and were said to be "outraged." Tour officials now say they will review the matter and decide whether to convene a disciplinary panel.

In that case, Dyson would likely be called upon to recount his version of the events. And here's hoping he has a persuasive case, as such panels have been known to administer more than wrist slaps. Dyson could be fined, or, the Telegraph reported, even banned.

(Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

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August 21, 2013

Pepper: Rules mishaps gave Solheim Cup 'black eye'

Posted at 12:40 PM by Kevin Cunningham

Dottie-pepper-solheim-cup_640

Dottie Pepper (right) argues with a rules official at the Solheim Cup (Getty Images).

As you may have read in the past three days, the 2013 Solheim Cup did not exactly go the Americans' way last weekend. And that is to say they got pummeled.

But U.S. vice captain and golf analyst Dottie Pepper's fury toward the event was not just directed toward her players' performance, but the performance of the rules officials.

In an essay for ESPNW.com, Pepper explained her issue:

Friday afternoon's opening four-balls match endured a 27-minute ruling on the 15th hole, a ruling that not only stifled the momentum the U.S. team was building (yes, I am unapologetically biased in this opinion) but also was, in the end, absolutely incorrect.

It took the rules committee nearly three hours to issue a statement admitting that Carlota Ciganda of Spain had been allowed to hit from the wrong spot, an error that could not be corrected, according to the Solheim Cup captain's agreement.

I'm not claiming to be a rules expert, but I have been to USGA/PGA rules school twice and know enough to tell when things seem odd and when to ask questions of the referees. Stacy Lewis and I were absolutely barbecued for politely asking the referee to talk us through the process of how the ruling was decided and handled. It was only after that discussion that it became apparent that the ruling had been blown.

But Pepper's beef with the tournament's rules officials didn't end there:

...the damage had been done, mostly to the reputation of the competition's integrity. Compound it with another ruling that took more than 30 minutes late Saturday, and with European vice captain Annika Sorenstam's borderline violation of the advice rule earlier that same day (a situation that necessitated a call to the USGA by the Solheim Cup rules committee), and you're left with a pretty nasty black eye on an event that deserves better.

Surely the sting of the U.S. team's first-ever loss on home soil is still burning, but Pepper does bring up a good point: the Solheim Cup is broken in many, varied ways and is in need of some serious fixing.

May 01, 2013

In wake of Tiger drop, USGA to reassess Rule 33-7

Posted at 4:32 PM by Josh Sens

Tiger-woods-dropA little more than two weeks after the Tiger Woods rules fiasco at Augusta National, the USGA has spoken.

And with help from my lawyers, and a team of Talmudic scholars, I think I understand where golf’s governing body stands.

In case you missed it, the release came out this morning: a 2,000-plus word statement from the USGA, addressing what Sports Illustrated’s Michael Bamberger aptly describes as “maybe the most complicated chapter in the history of golfing jurisprudence.”

Much of the statement retreads what is now familiar ground: Tiger finding the water at 15 when his approach rebounded off the flagstick; compounding his misfortune with an apparent rules infraction; then signing what turned out to be an incorrect scorecard, given that he’d taken an improper drop. In signing incorrectly, Woods violated rule 6-6d, which typically results in disqualification.

But as the golf world now knows, the Masters Tournament Committee spared Woods from a DQ by invoking Rule 33-7, which holds that a “penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual case be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.”

But was this case exceptional enough?

Here’s what the USGA had to say. (Warning: reading the following excerpt may cause sudden drowsiness and should not be attempted while operating heavy machinery.)

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 scorecard, 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.

Bottom line: In the USGA’s view, the Committee was justified in sparing Woods, but only because it had goofed in the first place by not talking to Woods about his improper drop before he had a chance to sign his card.

Got it? The good news is, situations like this come around about as often as the comet Kohoutek.

But just in case, the USGA has pledged to “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.”

Rest easy, golf fans. Next time the world’s No.1-ranked player gets freakishly unlucky; violates a rule that he should have known but does not get penalized for during his round; signs an incorrect scorecard then unwittingly indicts himself in a post-round interview, triggering a controversy that prompts critics to question the integrity of the year’s first major -- the next time that happens, everyone should know exactly what to do.

(Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP)

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

Posted at 10:42 AM by Golf.com

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.

USGA, THE R&A ISSUE STATEMENT ADDRESSING TIGER WOODS RULING AT THE 2013 MASTERS TOURNAMENT

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.

April 13, 2013

Tiger Woods hit with 2-stroke penalty at the Masters for illegal drop, no DQ

Posted at 10:12 AM by Golf.com
P1-TIger-Drop

 

 

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods was hit with a two-shot penalty Saturday morning for an illegal drop that he took on the 15th hole Friday, but finds himself at the center of a rules storm and faces calls to withdraw from an event he has won four times.

The drop under question [pictured above] occurred after Woods’s approach shot to the par-5 struck the flagstick and rolled back into the water. Woods chose not to drop in what he described as the "wet" and "muddy" drop zone, which left him with two other options under the Rules of Golf:  

1. Play [the] ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played; or

2. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped. 

Woods chose the first option, but admitted that he did not to drop as close as possible to the original spot.

“So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I took, tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit,” Woods said after his round.

The ensuing shot “worked out perfectly," Woods said.

The Masters rules committe cited a relatively new rule (brought in to deal with cases where viewers call in after the fact to report violations seen on TV) that allows the tournament to waive a penalty of disqualification in exceptional circumstances. They then released a statement that in essence placed the onus on the rules committee for not alerting Woods of his violation before he signed his scorecard. The statement says:

After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rules 26, and he was assessed a two stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player’s round.

Nick Faldo, a three time Masters champion and the lead analyst on CBS coverage of the event, said that Woods ought to consider withdrawing from the event today before his 1:45pm tee time. Brandel Chamblee of Golf Channel says that if Woods plays on the incident will cast a shadow on his entire career.

As of Saturday morning, Woods is at 1-under-par, 5 strokes behind leader Jason Day. He had been just three stokes back before the penalty.

The incident has been a popular topic of conversation on Twitter, among both fans and players. Many golf experts are calling for Woods to withdraw from the event.

UPDATE: Tiger Woods has responded to the incident via Twitter. Read his response below.

 

RELATED: Tiger's Major Victories

RELATED: Infamous Rules Violations 

(Photo: John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated)

 

April 09, 2012

Should Bubba Watson have incurred a penalty on his winning hook shot off the pine straw?

Posted at 2:36 PM by Mick Rouse

In Sunday's Masters playoff, Bubba Watson hit a clutch hook shot from the pine straw on No. 10. HIs ball found a way through the trees and somehow trickled to a stop 10 feet from the hole. It will be remembered as the shot that won Bubba Watson his first major. Was it legal, though? Watch his pre-shot movement closely in the video below.

 

In the video, Watson can be seen moving leaves and pine straw with his hand and feet before taking his stance. This has led some to dust off their rule books and point to Rule 13-2, which states "a player must not improve or allow to be improved the area of his intended stance or swing." A player breaking this rule incurs a two-stroke penalty.

So, did the rules official miss a call that would have almost certainly handed the green jacket to Louis Oosthuizen?

The key factor here is what Bubba was moving prior to taking his stance — pine straw and leaves. These objects are all loose impediments, according to the USGA. By definition, loose impediments are natural objects that are not attached in any way to the golf course. As Rule 23-1 states, "Except when both the loose impediment and the ball lie in or touch the same hazard, any loose impediment may be removed without penalty."

So there you have it, Rule 13-2 does not prohibit the movement of loose impediments, and Rule 23-1 specifically allows their movement.

So, there is no controversy here, folks. Please move along.

October 24, 2011

USGA changes ball-moving-at-address penalty, plus more changes for 2012

Posted at 8:34 AM by Golf.com

The USGA has announced several rule changes for 2012, including the controversial penalty for a ball moving at address on a putting green because of a gust of wind. The new Rules of Golf will also be published by both the USGA and the R&A in one volume for the first time. Here's the complete release:

Far Hills, N.J. (Oct. 24) - The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A today announced the publication of the new Rules of Golf for 2012-15.

Changes in the Rules – which for the first time have been designed, published and presented jointly by golf’s governing bodies – include exonerating a player from penalty if it is known their ball was moved by the wind after address.

Following an exhaustive, four-year review of golf’s 34 playing Rules, nine principal Rules have been amended to improve clarity and ensure penalties are proportionate. Significant changes include:

* Ball Moving After Address (Rule 18-2b). A new exception is added which exonerates the player from penalty if their ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that they did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.

* Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions (Rule 13-4). Exception 2 to this Rule is amended to permit a player to smooth sand or soil in a hazard at any time, including before playing from that hazard, provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached.

* Time of Starting (Rule 6-3a). The rule is amended to provide that the penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the starting time, is reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.

Commenting on the revisions to the Rules of Golf supported by Rolex, R&A Director of Rules and Equipment Standards David Rickman said: “The key point is that the Rules of Golf will remain fundamentally the same. We have undergone a pretty extensive review although what has come out of that has been relatively modest.

“The Rules of Golf are constantly evolving and our hope is that what we have produced for 2012 is clear, informed by common sense and reflective of the demands of the modern game.”

USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf Thomas Pagel said: “We have produced a unified code of the Rules of Golf for 60 years and although the context has been the same, we often found the perception that there were different Rules in place depending upon where you were to play the game.

“Now the book will not only have the same content, but it will also be presented in a uniform fashion with similar formatting and covers; this will truly be a single code governing the Rules of the game that reflects the strong collaboration between The R&A and USGA.”

The most significant change (Rule 18-12b) will see an end to situations like the one witnessed during the final round of this year’s Open Championship when Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was penalized when his ball was moved on the seventh green by the wind after he had addressed it.

Padraig Harrington, three-time Major winner and R&A-Working for Golf Ambassador, said: “I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. Every time the wind blows I am worried that my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt.

“This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalized or disqualified unfairly. It is definitely giving us players a little bit of a break.”

There has been a unified code of golf since 1952 but until now The R&A and the USGA have published the same rules in separate editions, thereby giving the impression to some that the rules were different. However, this year sees identical publications with only some spellings and respective logos changing depending whether the edition serves the U.S. and Mexico or the rest of the world.

Golfing legend Arnold Palmer welcomed the announcement of a jointly published edition of the Rules. He said: “What has happened with The R&A and the USGA is wonderful. In the years I have been associated with the game and got to know The R&A and what their efforts are and having lived with the USGA all my life, one of the things I have always thought we should be closer together.”

 





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