Rules to Play By Did Lefty Break the Rules

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Each week, Ray Herzog, a rules expert from the San Diego Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., will be answering reader-submitted questions involving the Rules of Golf. Look for Ray's Q&A every Thursday on
In the first round of play at the Tour Championship Phil Mickelson hit his drive into the trees on number 5. He found his ball lying at the foot of some trees. He clearly identified the ball as his own and proceeded to take an unplayable lie and dropped a 2nd ball 40 feet back in the direction of his ball flight. After hitting his now 3rd shot after the penalty he walked out of the trees and left his original ball back next to the tree. I was under the impression once you start a hole with that ball you have to finish with the same ball, unless it is deemed damaged. Should he have picked up the first ball and dropped that and played it? In my eyes he should have been assessed a one stroke penalty for the unplayable and then a two stroke penalty for playing the wrong ball. What is the correct ruling? -- David A. Decker
As I watched the TOUR Championship and watched Phil leave his ball next to the tree it made me feel great. I have done the same thing on numerous occasions. All that tells me about Phil is that he is as superstitious as your average golfer. Somewhere deep down, he thought that ball had some bad Mojo and did not want to use it anymore, so he abandoned it next to the tree. Now that we know Phil is superstitious, the question is, did he break a rule of golf and deserve to get penalized. The answer is NO.
As you stated in your question, Phil used the second option under Rule 28. (Ball Unplayable) The wording in Part B of the rule states:
Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped.
The rule states, drop a ball not drop the ball. That one little difference is why Phil was allowed to leave his golf ball next to the tree without receiving a penalty. In some situations, you will have to take an unplayable ball and not be able to retrieve your ball. Down here in Florida, it is not uncommon to hit a ball in a palm tree. You can look up and identify the ball in the tree but you cant get to it. In this situation you can abandon the ball in the tree and drop a different ball under the unplayable ball rule. That is basically what Phil did, except his ball was on the ground. If you read Rule 26 (Water Hazards) and Rule 27 (Out of Bounds) you will see the same wording under the relief portion of each rule.
-- Ray
I am confused. I saw a 'lesson' on TV provided by (David) Feherty during coverage of a PGA tournament. He was on the putting surface about three feet from the hole. He missed his putt and it rolled down and off the green to a position not shown by the cameras. He explained that his decision was to take an unplayable lie and replace the ball where he had putted from, take the penalty and putt the ball into the hole. His reasoning was that it was a very hot day and he didn't want to have to walk down and up the hill to play his ball where it lay. Is this within the rules? It seems as if it would give the player an unfair advantage to take this penalty and putt from three feet away versus who knows how many strokes it would take to hit the ball back up the hill and into the hole. ' William McQuade
I think I saw the same broadcast, but I think it was Gary McCord explaining the rule. The Ball Unplayable rule has Pros and Cons. In this situation, the pro is Gary did not have to walk all the way down the hill to play his ball. The con was he had to apply a one-stroke penalty to his score.
Part A of the rule states:
Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.
One of Garys options was to place the ball back to its previous position. In this situation, that was three feet from the hole on the putting green. If he would have skulled his shot out of the bunker over the flag and into the woods, nobody would think twice if he would have to drop another ball in the bunker.
Another benefit of the rule as we learned in the previous question, if you are really lazy and dont want to walk down the hill, just abandon the ball and put another ball into play.
-- Ray
Just curious - not in a tournament or anything but my golf partner was dead behind a tree and had to come out to the left. He was right handed. He turned his wedge upside down and from the left, placed the face about two inches behind the ball and without any backswing moved the face forward until it scooped up the ball and propelled it out from behind the tree. The ball did not double hit the face and the chip out - if you can call it that - came off perfectly. We all felt impressed and wondered why we hadn't thought of that. Would this be a legitimate swing according to the rules? ' Stuart Clark
I am glad that you and your friends had not thought of his idea first. That tells me you are more in touch with your rule book that your unnamed friend. The answer to your question can be found in Rule 14 (Striking the Ball). Rule 14-1, states:
The ball must be fairly struck at with the head of the club and must not be pushed, scraped or spooned.
In this situation, your friend seemed to have pushed the ball out of the bad lie. There has to be some kind of backswing and striking motion to be considered a swing. As far as turning the wedge upside down, that is legal. A player may play a stroke with any part of the clubhead, provided the ball is fairly struck at. In this case, the penalty would be two strokes for pushing the ball out of the bad lie.
In the Decisions on The Rules of Golf, there is a similar ruling, 14-1/1. If you do not have a Decisions book, log onto and there is a copy online.
Thank you for your questions,
Ray Herzog
Email your Rules of Golf questions to Ray
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.