Rules Blog - US PGA

Keegan Bradley wins at Atlanta Athletic ClubShona McRae, Manager – Rules of Golf

The US PGA is billed as “glory’s last shot” and what a shot it was for the eventual winner Keegan Bradley who won the season’s final major at the Atlanta Athletic Club. I was fortunate enough to witness his winning putt after the three-hole play-off from the side of the 18th green. As a guest Rules official, we had a prime spot to watch the action unfold, but this was only after completing our own refereeing duties.

The PGA of America invites Rules officials from across the world to join the PGA of America Rules Committee to make up an international team of referees for this major championship. Each official is assigned to an individual hole each day and is responsible for delivering any rulings that may be required.

For my part, I was allocated the 6th hole for Thursday and Saturday and the 10th hole for Friday and Sunday, so I made sure to pay particular attention to these two holes when reviewing the course in advance. 

The 6th hole is a relatively short Par 4 at 425 yards and has a water hazard guarding the front left of the green.  In addition, the water hazard on the 7th hole can come into play for any tee shot hit left from the 6th tee. The hazard on the 7th hole was marked as a water hazard with yellow line and stakes however, the Local Rules clarified that for the play of the 6th hole, this hazard would be treated as a lateral water hazard, ensuring the players had all the options for relief under Rule 26.

As it was, two players managed to hit their tee shot into the hazard on the 7th while playing the 6th on Thursday. One of those was Anthony Kim who requested a ruling. I explained his options for relief and he dropped the ball under Rule 26-1c, two club-lengths from the point of entry. He then hit a flier from the rough which bounced on the cart path behind the 6th green and jumped into the fir trees some distance behind the green.

Anthony Kim at US PGAHe was fortunate enough to find his ball in the trees but it was certainly not possible to make a stroke at it in that position.  Kim decided to declare the ball unplayable and chose to take relief under Rule 28b.  This meant he had to keep the point where the ball lay in the trees in line with the flagstick and drop the ball back onto an asphalt area where many television trucks and vehicles were parked. 

Although he would have been entitled to relief from this area, he decided that it was a more attractive option to play it from this artificially-surfaced spot, as the nearest point of relief would have made his next stroke much more difficult due to the trees. Once the area was cleared of spectators, he dropped the ball and played an amazing recovery shot over the 20 foot high trees towards the green but was unlucky to find the greenside bunker. He eventually finished with a costly 7.

On the Friday, I moved to the 10th hole, another relatively short Par 4 at 442 yards. The hole has a small undulating green which if missed on the left, could have spelt trouble due to the steep bank that would take a ball down to the foot of the bank where a lateral water hazard, an artificially-surfaced path and a boundary fence was located. However, the only ruling I had that day involved a ball on a movable obstruction. 

American club professional, Stuart Small had hit his tee shot right of the fairway and it found a nice resting place in the back of one of the television golf carts!  Although Rule 24-1b does not require the player to mark the position of the ball, I advised Small to place a tee under the cart on the ground approximately below where the ball lay.  This meant that when the cart was removed, he had a reference point at which to drop the ball. 

Ball in golf cartTo complicate matters, the cart was parked on a cart path, therefore, I advised him that he would have to drop the ball first on the cart path and then if he wished, take relief from the path.  He could not “jump” a step and just take relief from the cart and the path in one go. After completing his drop under Rule 24-1b, he then chose to take relief from the cart path (an immovable obstruction) under Rule 24-2.

I gave several rulings involving that same cart path on the 10th hole on both Friday and Sunday but I am pleased to say no one hit a ball down the steep bank on the left-hand side which could have proved to be a rulings challenge!

One of the main difficulties of the week for all the Rules officials was finding the right location in which to position yourself on the hole to watch the play.  With temperatures in the region of 32°C and high humidity, finding shade was essential. As we were out on our assigned holes from the very first tee time to the very last, refereeing involves spending many hours on the course concentrating on play, so keeping cool, calm and collected in case of a ruling was essential. 

Despite the heat, refereeing at a major championship is an unforgettable experience and the 2011 PGA Championship is one I will certainly remember for a long time.  Held over a fantastic golf course, it produced an exciting finish for the season’s final major, and an inspirational champion in Keegan Bradley.