Ruling of the Day - Thursday
A total of 96 rulings were given during the first round of the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s. Many of these involved relief from the grandstands and television structures which are temporarily situated on the links to facilitate the Championship.
One of the more unusual situations of the day arose on the 18th hole when Phil Mickelson’s ball came to rest against a chocolate bar wrapper as he was finishing his first round. Anything artificial, such as the wrapper, is by definition an obstruction. If the item may be moved without unreasonable effort, without undue delay and without causing any damage, it is considered to be a movable obstruction and it may be removed.
Mickelson was therefore entitled to remove the wrapper. The complication was that in moving the wrapper it was likely that his ball would move. Rule 24-1 states that if the ball moves when removing a movable obstruction, the ball must be replaced and there is no penalty provided the movement of the ball was directly attributable to the removal of the obstruction.
Anticipating that the ball might move, the referee asked Mickelson to mark the position of the ball. Rule 24-1a does not require the player to mark the position of the ball but it is considered good practice to do so because if the ball does move, the player can be certain that the ball is returned to its original position. The ball did in fact roll away when the wrapper was removed, so Mickelson was required to replace his ball without penalty.
Mickelson attempted to replace the ball on the spot from which it moved, but was unsuccessful as the ball would not come to rest on that spot. Rule 20-3d covers the situation when a ball that is to be replaced will not come to rest: there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced again. If the ball still fails to come to rest, then if the ball was not in a hazard (i.e. a bunker or water hazard) the player must place it at the nearest spot where it will come to rest, that is not nearer the hole and not in a hazard.
Mickelson tried to replace the ball for a second time but again the ball moved. He was therefore required to place the ball at the nearest spot where it would come to rest. With his skilful short game, Mickelson went on to chip over the greenside bunker and sink his putt for a par 4 and a level par round of 70.
Watch an instructional video on how to take relief if your ball lands on a movable obstruction here.