Bumblebees, trees, bad drops and transportation have in some cases resulted in penalties for players on the various Tours around the world in recent months.
McDowell Avoids Being Stung for a Penalty
During this year’s Masters, Graeme McDowell tried to brush away a large bumblebee on the putting green and as he did so, he clipped his marker with his hand and moved it from its spot.
McDowell was initially advised that he had incurred a one-stroke penalty, which he accepted. However, Rule 23-1 states that if a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of a player removing a loose-impediment, there is no penalty and the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. The Definitions section clarifies that insects are loose impediments so as per Rule 23-1, no penalty should have applied. The error was quickly discovered and past Captain of The R&A Sir Michael Bonallack and Chief European Tour Referee John Paramour advised McDowell a couple of holes later that he had not in fact incurred a penalty. McDowell joked,
“I asked Sir Michael and John if there was any chance they could stay with me for the rest of the round, as they were the only way I'd get back shots around here."
McDowell went on to make the cut by two strokes, finishing the event in a tie for 52nd place.
Ko’s Identity Crisis
World number 1, Lydia Ko continues to impress, however, her first round at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout was more adventurous than most.
Ko hit her third shot on the par-4 14th hole straight into a tree from which it failed to come down. Ko and her caddie could see a ball in the tree, but they could not identify it from the ground so her caddie Jason Hamilton climbed up the tree to try and retrieve it. Before Hamilton shook the branch in an attempt to dislodge the ball, Ko confirmed that she wanted to declare the ball unplayable. Despite repeated attempts to shake it free, and then to knock it out of the tree with a club, the ball was firmly lodged in the tree and would not move.
With no markings visible, that left the issue of how to identify the ball. When LPGA Rules Official Brad Alexander arrived at the ruling he discovered from the spectators that several of them had witnessed the ball coming to rest in the tree at the specific point where a ball was now visible. Decision 27/12 clarifies that if a spectator is able to give information which allows a player to positively identify a ball, the ball should not be deemed lost. Alexander was therefore satisfied that the eye witness accounts were sufficient to be able to consider the ball identified as Ko’s.
Had it not been possible to identify the ball, Ko’s only option would be to play again under stroke and distance from where she played her previous stroke. However, as the ball was identified as hers, Ko then had a reference point which gave her the additional options of either dropping back on a line, keeping the point where the ball lay in the tree between her and the hole (Rule 28b), or dropping within two club lengths of the point directly under where the ball lay in the (Rule 28c). Note - Decision 28/11 clarifies that if a ball lies above the ground (e.g. in a tree), then the reference point from dropping under the final option is the point on the ground immediately below the place where the ball lay in the tree.
Ko elected to take the third option and dropped another ball within two club lengths of the point directly under the point where the ball lay in the tree, no nearer the hole, under penalty of one stroke. She went on to triple bogey the hole and finished her round four-over-par but she recovered with a second round of three-under-par to make her 51st consecutive cut in a professional event.
Aaron Baddeley’s dislike of the infamous par three 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass continued during this year’s second round of The Players Championship. Having hit two balls into the water he put his third ball onto the green and two putted for what he though was a quadruple-bogey 7. However, when dropping his second ball in the dropping zone, Baddeley had failed to ensure that his arm was straight. Rule 20-2 requires a player to stand erect and holding the ball at shoulder height and arm’s length when the ball is dropped. As Baddeley clearly had his arm bent when dropping and did not correct the error, he incurred the applicable one-stroke penalty resulting in a score of 8 for the hole.
The additional penalty stroke did not make too much difference to Baddeley as he missed the cut by several shots.
The importance of not only the player but the caddie knowing the Rules of Golf was highlighted during the Shenzen International in China when Eduardo Molinari’s caddie caught a ride in a golf cart between the 9thand 10th holes.
The European Tour has a Condition of Competition which prohibits the use of golf carts, unless permitted by the Rules Committee (Rule 33-1). The Rules of Golf apply not just to the actions of the player but also to their caddies’ actions. So Molinari should have included a two-stroke penalty in his score for a breach of the condition. Unfortunately for Molinari, he had not seen his caddie take the lift and so he did not include the penalty in his score. As the error was discovered after the score card had been returned to the Committee, Molinari was disqualified for signing for a score lower than actually taken (Rule 6-6d).
- Slow play is a bug bear of many golfers, with the recent R&A pace of play survey showing that 60% of golfers would enjoy the game more if a round of golf took less time. Rules officials at the recent Men’s NCAA Championship in Florida showed they were serious about tackling the issue by issuing one-stroke penalties to four players for breaches of the pace of play condition that was in place for the event (See Note 2 to Rule 6-7). For one player in particular it was a costly penalty as it resulted in him missing the cut by one stroke.
- In recent weeks, bad weather on the US PGA Tour has resulted in the Tour taking some unusual steps to cope with the unseasonal conditions. Firstly, at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club, a Local Rule was put in place to permit preferred lies anywhere through the green. Generally, the Local Rule is restricted only to closely-mown areas through the green – see Appendix 1, Part B, 4c. However, with more rain forecast and the desire to complete the tournament, the decision was made to extend this further due to the exceptional circumstances.
- Just a week later, at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship the PGA Tour was again faced with a rain soaked golf course. The 14th fairway was so wet that the decision was taken to shorten the 14th hole from 406 yards to just 104 yards.