Rules Blog - Ricoh Women's British Open

Claire Hargan, Manager - Rules, blogs about her experience at a blustery Ricoh Women's British Open at Hoylake.

HoylakeI arrived at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) on Tuesday afternoon to begin my preparations for refereeing at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, now in its 12th year as a major Championship.  I met with a group of referees and with the sun shining and the wind gusting just a little we headed out to review the course and plan our buggy route.  At the Women’s British Open each referee is allocated two or three matches each day to accompany.  We are required to stay outside the ropes as much as possible, so familiarising ourselves with the layout of the course and the quickest buggy routes is just as important as being aware of potential Rules issues that might arise during the week.  The course was in excellent condition but the rough certainly looked like it would provide a tough challenge for the players.

Wednesday morning was the official course walk for the referees led by chief referee, Marc Vande Broek of the Ladies European Tour.  This allowed us to ensure we were happy with the course lay out and marking as well as familiarising ourselves with the Local Rules in place for the competition.  This would be my first opportunity to referee at a major Championship and so I was glad of the opportunity to clarify some of the finer points of the Local Rules with the regular tour referees in attendance at the event.  A Rules meeting followed in the afternoon to allow any final issues and arrangements to be clarified.  The main concerns came from the on-site weather forecaster, Mike McClellan, who advised us that wind speeds on the Friday were likely to reach up to 48mph.  If that was to be  the case then oscillating and moving golf balls were very likely to be a problem, although green speeds would be kept slower than they would normally for a major Championship. 

HoylakeThe 1st round found relatively light winds and was a largely quiet day for most of the referees.  The three matches that I was covering did not tax me too much with my only ruling of the day coming when Lindsey Wright’s ball moved Christine Song’s ball at rest on the 2nd green.  I consulted with a nearby marshal who had seen the position of the ball before it moved and advised Christine to replace her ball on that spot (Rule 18-5). 

One of the most interesting rulings of the day came at the back of the 4th green when one of the young amateurs in the field hit her second shot well through the green into some thick rough.  She had a heavy cable reel lying between her and the pin which would have to be treated as a temporary immovable obstruction (a Local Rule which is often used in professional events to provide relief from temporary obstructions only on the course for that week).  Before the referee had a chance to talk her through the options, the player had picked her ball up and dropped it clear of the cable reel next to some staked trees in anticipation that she would then be entitled to further relief in a more favourable lie and position.  What the player hadn’t realised was that her nearest point of relief from the staked trees would be in a bush from which she then had to take an unplayable drop under penalty of one stroke (Rule 28c).  It shows how important it is to think through the options available to you before you pick up your ball – just because you are entitled to take relief, doesn’t always mean that this will be the most attractive option.  The nearest point of relief is just that, the nearest point of relief – it will not necessarily be the nicest point of relief!

The 2nd round dawned and, unfortunately, Mike had got his forecast for the Friday spot on.  With the wind gusting at up to 53mph and balls moving on the greens, the second round was suspended after only one hour of play.  By 2pm the wind was still blowing at an almost constant 35mph and play was abandoned for the day.  The Championship Committee also took the decision to declare play null and void and cancel all scores for those that had started their round.  There is no hard and fast rule as to when a Committee should cancel a round but as per Decision 33-2d/1, a round should be cancelled only in a case where it would be grossly unfair not to cancel it.  With the forecast set fair for the following day, this decision was very much justified.  This is not the first time that scores from a round have been nullified during a major.  Seve Ballesteros won his third Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1988 after scores on the Saturday were cancelled because of bad weather. 

HoylakeWith further gales forecast for the Monday, the Committee were keen to complete play on the Sunday if at all possible and so they also made the decision to reduce the number of players who would play the final two rounds to 50 and ties (rather than 65 and ties).  Under the conditions of competition for the Championship, there was a condition stating that, ‘the Championship Committee reserves the right to amend the Championship Conditions and the decision of the Championship Committee shall, in all matters, be final.’  This therefore allowed the Committee to amend the condition detailing the number of competitors which would play the last two rounds on the Sunday.

The 2nd round was finally played on the Saturday in very pleasant conditions and was a largely uneventful day for most of the Rules Officials, including myself.  The most amusing incident of the day occurred when Carin Koch called in her Rules Official to ask if she could move a daddy long legs (native spider) from in front of her ball in the bunker.  The official had to advise her that the daddy long legs was a loose impediment (as it was a natural object) and she could not touch or move a loose impediment while it lay in the same bunker as her ball (Rule 23-1).  Thankfully Carin managed to play without disturbing the spider and she rescued him from the bunker after her shot!

The 3rd and 4th rounds were both played on the Sunday in a marathon final day for the players and officials.  The wind started to pick up mid-morning and it was no surprise that my first ruling of the day involved a moving ball.  Mo Martin of the USA called me to the side of the 14th green which was one of the most exposed parts of the course.  With her ball lying precariously on a collar of rough she had ensured she had kept her distance from the ball and taken her practice swing well away from the ball, however the ball had moved as she was about to approach it to play her shot.  Given the player had kept her distance from the ball, I judged that she had not caused the ball to move and she should therefore play the ball from its new position with no penalty.  World number two, Stacy Lewis also had an incident with her ball moving after she had addressed it on the green during an afternoon squall.  Stacy was very close to replacing the ball on its original spot, however referee Gillian Kirkwood was close at hand and stepped in to stop her and assess the facts.  It was judged that it was virtually certain that the gusting wind had caused the ball to move and so under the Exception to Rule 18-2b, the player incurred no penalty and was required to play the ball from its new position.

HoylakeThere was a further suspension of play mid-way through the 4th round when a short but extremely sharp and squally shower came across the course, once again causing balls to move on a couple of the more exposed greens.  The klaxons were once again brought in to action and play was brought to a halt.  There was some confusion on the television coverage as to what was happening as some players, including Na Yeon Choi, were seen to continue play.  However, as the suspension was not for a dangerous situation, the players had the option to either discontinue play immediately or continue play of the hole, provided they did so without delay (Rule 6-8b).  The squall passed through quickly and play was back underway just eight minutes later with the Championship finally played to a conclusion.

Congratulations to South Korea’s Jiyai Shin who played excellent golf in extremely testing conditions to win the Championship by a record nine shots.