Rules on Tour- BMW PGA Championship
By David Rickman - R&A Director of Rules and Equipment Standards
The PGA European Tour always puts together an international Rules Committee for its flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship. Supplementing the European Tour’s own staff this year were representatives from the PGA Tour and the PGA of America, South Africa’s Sunshine Tour and from Portugal, in addition to the PGA and The R&A. I have been fortunate to represent The R&A at this prestigious Championship many times over the past 20 years.
The West Course at Wentworth is, therefore, very familiar to me, but, since last year’s Championship, the course had been significantly altered, so Wednesday morning’s pre-Championship trip round the course was very interesting The course work started straight after last year’s Championship and all 18 greens were dug up, re-designed and re-laid. All the bunkering, both greenside and fairway, was re-done and significant changes were made to three holes – the eighth, 12th and 18th. Whilst such extensive changes were always likely to divide opinion, the re-designed West course presents a formidable challenge. It was presented in immaculate condition – given the winter we have had in the UK, this is a huge credit to Chris Kennedy and his team at Wentworth.
On the Wednesday afternoon there was a one-hour Rules meeting to clarify the Additional Local Rules and any course-marking issues. The European Tour has a Rules “Hard Card” which applies week-in, week-out. Course-specific issues, such as the water hazards at the eighth and 18th holes, both of which had dropping zones as additional options, the hospitality unit and tented village by the 18th green, which also used multiple dropping zones as part of the relief procedure, and the course’s boundaries, are dealt with by an Additional Local Rules sheet. Despite the extensive course changes, the Rules side of things was much the same as in previous years. The course is divided into six refereeing zones and there are 5 “roving” assignments to help deal with any specific issues, including any pace of play problems.
Round One (Holes 14, 15 and 16)
The Championship started at 7.00 am, but my back-nine assignment meant that I didn’t have too early a start. For the first two rounds, the time allowed for the round is 4 hours and 26 minutes. As such, it was after 10 am before the first players reached the 14th hole and my “zone”. Thursday proved to be a quiet day, the warm, calm, sunny weather undoubtedly helping, but as always, something unexpected happens!
Ruling of the Day – On the 14th hole (par 3), Ross Fisher’s ball was just off the putting green when one of his fellow-competitors, whose turn it was to play, asked him to mark and lift his ball as it interfered with his play. Fisher did so and put his ball in his pocket. All very innocuous you might think, but, under Rule 22, a player who lifts a ball in these circumstances is not allowed to clean his ball. By putting the ball in his pocket, Fisher may have inadvertently cleaned his ball and, if so, would have been subject to a one-stroke penalty. Fortunately, when asked about the incident on the next hole, Fisher confirmed that the ball was clean to start with and, therefore, it was ruled that no breach occurred.
Round of the Day – Danny Willett – 65.
Round Two (Rover Five)
After a series of meetings in the morning, my refereeing duties didn’t start until 1.00pm on Friday. Traditionally, one referee would look after holes 17 and 18, but this is a big and difficult area to cover on your own – both holes are par-5s with lots of potential rulings around the 18th green – so I was instructed to look after the 17th hole. Whilst the 610-yard 17th proved a considerable challenge all day, there were no Rules incidents on the hole.
Ruling of the Day – On the par-5 18th hole, Daniel Vancsik’s ball came to rest close to the hospitality unit on the water hazard line to the left of the green. The unit was classified as a “temporary immovable obstruction” (TIO) and the player was entitled to free relief from interference to his area of intended swing. Because the ball was touching the water hazard line, however, and therefore in the hazard, he would have to have taken relief still in the water hazard. As this point of relief also had to be not nearer the hole, he would have had to drop the ball some distance back down the hazard so as to satisfy both of these requirements. Perhaps fortunately, Vancsik chose to play the ball as it lay!
Rounds of the Day – Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Chris Wood all shot 68s to mean there were three English players in the top five.
Round Three (Holes four, five, six and 11)
78 players made the cut – the leading 65 players and ties – meaning another pre-8am start. As another beautiful day was forecast, it wasn’t a surprise to see large crowds descending on Wentworth. As is often the case at professional events, I spent more time answering questions from the spectators, ranging from complex Rules queries to the location of the Clubhouse/nearest toilets/programme stall than from the players!
Ruling of the Day – On the first hole, a par 4, Marcel Siem’s ball came to rest close to a tree. On taking his practice swing, he knocked down some leaves from the tree and he was concerned that he might have unintentionally improved the area of his intended swing – a breach of Rule 13-2. As his play of the hole was televised, TV footage of the incident was reviewed and it was determined that in this particular case, whilst a few leaves were dislodged, there was no real “improvement” of the area of his intended swing as there were still many leaves in his way – see Decision 13-2/22.
Round of the Day – Robert Karlsson – 62, despite having travelled most of the night having previously thought, wrongly, that he had missed the cut!
Round Four (Holes seven, eight, nine and 10)
Four beautifully sunny days is something of a record for the BMW PGA Championship, but it was a very welcome aspect of this year’s event. The good weather, and in particular the lack of a swirling wind, a common feature of this tree-lined course, helped the players and kept the rulings to a minimum all week. A couple of balls over the back of the 10th green, in amongst TV cables and up against a TV tower, were the only rulings I was asked to help with on the final day.
Ruling of the Day – Nothing of particular interest! This is never a bad thing, much better that the champion is decided by the golf shots played rather than the Rules.
Round of the Day – Simon Khan – 66, to win by one stroke.
All in all, it was an excellent week at a very well-organised championship. It is always very useful to catch up with the Tour officials and discuss matters of common interest with them and various other representatives from around the world. It was also an opportunity for me to witness, first-hand, elite players playing a challenging course with irons that conform to the new groove regulations, which were introduced for elite play in January 2010. Perhaps I was looking for it, but it certainly seemed more difficult than before to control shots from the rough.