Embedded Ball - Tiger Woods

WoodsTiger Woods incurred a two stroke penalty at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Tiger’s ball was embedded in sand in the rough and he thought he was entitled to relief without penalty.

Under Rule 25-2, a player is entitled to relief without penalty when his ball is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground in any “closely mown area” through the green. “Closely-mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, but they must be cut to fairway height or less. 

It is permissible to introduce a Local Rule extending relief to “through the green” (see Appendix I, Part B, 4a), which the European Tour had done, but crucially that Local Rule goes on to say that a player may not take relief if his ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown, i.e. there is no free relief if the ball is embedded in sand in the rough.

WoodsAs Woods was not entitled to relief without penalty, he was penalised two strokes for moving his ball at rest and not replacing it (Rule 18-2a). 

The reason that the Local Rule excludes relief for balls embedded in sand in the rough is that there is nothing abnormal about such an occurrence, i.e. it is normal for a ball to embed in sand, so it is considered inappropriate to give free relief in such cases. 

For more information on the incident, see the European Tour website.