A new year, a new golf season, a new set of Rules for 2016 and already the Rules have come into focus, particularly in relation to clubs.
KEEGAN BRADLEY – MAXIMUM OF 14 CLUBS
Keegan Bradley was penalised two strokes for starting his round with 15 clubs in his bag at the Phoenix Open in Scotsdale Arizona. Fortunately, this error was noticed before he teed off at the 2nd hole, otherwise the penalty would have increased to four strokes.
Under Rule 4-4a, the player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. In stroke play, the player is penalised two strokes for each hole at which the breach occurred with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes.
Bradley is not the first player to do this and probably the most memorable case involving Rule 4-4a was during the The Open in 2001 at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Ian Woosnam started the final round as joint leader and tapped in for a birdie two at the first hole, a fantastic start to his final round.Standing on the second tee, Miles Byrne, Woosnam’s caddie at the time, turned to him and said, “You’re going to go ballistic. We have 15 clubs in the bag.”
On the practice ground, Woosnam had been testing two drivers and, rushing from the practice ground to the first tee, he had not counted his clubs to ensure that he had no more than the stipulated 14. Under Rule 4-4a, Woosnam incurred a two-stroke penalty at the first hole and his birdie two became a bogey four, effectively spoiling his chances of a second Major title.
JUSTIN THOMAS – DAMAGED CLUB
Justin Thomas also had trouble with his clubs when playing in the same event in Phoenix in February. When playing the par 5, 15th hole his wayward tee shot came to rest directly behind a tree on the sandy waste ground.
Using an 8-iron to attempt a pitch back out into the fairway, Thomas struck the tree with the club on his follow through, breaking the shaft into two pieces on impact.
Because the club was damaged in the normal course of play, Thomas had three options available to him under Rule 4-3a:
- use the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the round, or
- without unduly delaying play, repair it or have it repaired, or
- as the club was unfit for play, replace the damaged club with any club.
It is important to note that Thomas could not unduly delay play if he wanted to replace the club and was not entitled to discontinue play in order to do so. He also could not borrow any club selected for play by any other person on the course or replace the club by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.
However, the incident did not seem to distract him too much in the play of the hole and he went on to par the 15th hole and do without his 8-iron for the remainder of the round.
BRENDON DE JONGE – DAMAGED CLUB
Zimbabwean, Brendon de Jonge also had an issue with Rule 4-3 at the Northern Trust Open in February.
After a birdie at the first hole, he reached for his lob wedge on the 2nd hole to play a pitch to the green. When he pulled the club from his bag, he noticed that the shaft near the butt of the grip had a dent.
The damage was the result of de Jonge swinging the handle of the wedge into his golf bag the day before after playing a shot from a bad lie on the 18th hole. De Jonge did not realise that his hasty action had dented the club.
However, it wasn’t until he went to use the club on the 2nd hole the following day that he realised the wedge was damaged. De Jonge immediately informed a PGA Tour referee to seek guidance.
Under Rule 4-3c, a player may use a club damaged prior to a round, provided the club, in its damaged state, conforms to the Rules. However, as the club was substantially dented, the club was no longer conforming and de Jonge was subject to penalty under this Rule.
The penalty for carrying the club damaged prior to the round is two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, therefore, de Jonge was penalised four strokes (two strokes for the 1st hole and two strokes at the 2nd hole).
Thankfully de Jonge had not used the club so he escaped disqualification under the Rule.
“My head really wasn’t in it after that,” said de Jonge, who shot a second-round 77 for a 6 over total to miss the cut. “It was my fault, I should have checked it.”
BERNHARD LANGER – NEW RULE 14-1b
1 January 2016 saw the introduction of the anchoring ban with the adoption of Rule 14-1b. This has resulted in those who used the anchored stroke in the past adopting new methods of putting. For example, Adam Scott has gone to the shorter putter and others have adapted the way they use the long putter to conform to the Rule.
The technique adopted by Senior Tour player, Bernhard Langer, has recently been in the spotlight as a result of him using an anchored stroke for a practice putt and then a non-anchored stroke for the actual putt.
The Rule prevents the player from making a stroke with the club anchored, either directly or by use of an anchored point. However, this does not apply to any practice strokes so practising in this manner is perfectly acceptable.
The key with Langer’s putting stroke is that he moves his hand away from his chest so it is not touching his body and as a result, the club is not anchored during the stroke.