' Matt Pittsburgh, PA
Matt, Rub of the Green occurs when a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by an outside agency.
It is not just bad luck, the way we generally interpret this phrase, e.g. landing in a divot hole in the middle of the fairway, bouncing off the flag-stick into the water hazard or the many other bad luck situations, which occur during a round; these are called Tough Cookies.
An outside agency could be a dog or a crow picking up your ball, a fellow competitor unintentionally deflecting it, or a golfer who believes that a ball is a lost ball, even if it is still rolling and the hitter is not close at hand but he and his mates clearly watch this thievery.
If Padraig Harringtons third shot on the eighth hole on Sunday had hit Henrik Stenson ' who happened to have ducked quickly out of the way ' and was deflected onto the green close to the hole this would have been considered Rub of the Green and it must be played as it lies. It may have resulted in a bogey rather than the eventual quintuple-bogey 8, so this could have been a good Rub of the Green.
On the other hand, if the ball had landed in Henriks back pocket and he started running around on the green in pain, Padraig would have to ' after apologizing ' retrieve the ball from Henriks pocket and drop it as close to where Henrik was standing in the deep rough when he stopped the ball in flight.
Now that we have cleared this up (and Padraig is still kicking himself), you are permitted to pick the shreds off the ball before you putt it. It may have an effect on the way the ball will roll, as will a little mud. Clean your ball whenever you can and especially when you are permitted to do so on the green.
That gap wedge will wear down a bit but you will be disqualified if you use it next year when you qualify for the US Open and thats not Rub of the Green but a questionable rules change on the part of the U.S. Golf Association trying to make the game a little more difficult. (click here to learn more)