Henrik Stenson and Ryan Palmer both encountered situations that required the application of Rule 18-1 on Saturday at The Open Championship.
On the Par 4, 7th hole, Stenson and Palmer were surprised to witness two seagulls swoop down and pick up their balls that were lying on the fairway. Struggling to carry Stenson’s ball, the seagull dropped it quickly. The other gull was more persistent and did not want to miss out on what must have appeared to be an attractive meal and attempted to make off with it.
Under the Rules, a seagull is an outside agency. Provided it is known or virtually certain that an outside agency has moved the ball at rest, there is no penalty to the player and the ball must be replaced (Rule 18-1).
However, often it is the case that the ball may not be retrievable as a result of the outside agency’s actions. So if a ball to be replaced under this Rule is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.
In the Stenson and Palmer case, they managed to retrieve their golf balls back from the seagulls so it was just a case of replacing the ball on the spot where the gulls had picked them up. But both players were unable to do this as they were unsure of the exact spot.
If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be placed, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay originally, but not in a hazard or on a putting green. As a result, both players estimated the spot with the assistance of the referee and dropped the ball at this spot to ensure the ball was replaced as required by Rule 18-1.
Stenson went on to “birdie” the hole, while Palmer was not so fortunate and finished with a bogey 5.