BETHESDA, Md. – Just don’t call it the Webb Simpson ruling. That’s the message the U.S. Golf Association delivered on Monday during the U.S. Open media day at Congressional Country Club.
Simpson was penalized a stroke on Sunday at the Zurich Classic when his golf ball moved a half inch on the 15th green during his closing duel with Bubba Watson. The second-year Tour player finished 72 holes tied with Watson and lost the event on the second playoff hole.
On Monday USGA officials confirmed the rule (No. 18-2b) has “been a point of discussion” since at least 2004.
“In a situation where we really know the player did not move the ball and that it was an outside agent (wind) that caused the ball to move there should be no penalty,” said USGA vice president Tom O’Toole Jr.
Late Sunday following a walk-through at Congressional’s Blue Course, site of next month’s U.S. Open, O’Toole met with association president Jim Hyler and executive director Mike Davis and the group decided to be “proactive” about the possibility of changing the rule.
“We’re not doing this because of Webb,” O’Toole said. “We met last night and just decided to get out front on this.”
O’Toole said discussions to change the rule are currently ongoing with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Last month at Augusta National, the USGA, along with the R&A, announced a rule change in reaction to recent high-profile infractions on the PGA Tour.
The news likely didn’t help Simpson, who is still looking for his first Tour title.
“The problem with the rule is you get greens like this that they get pretty bare, almost like this table top, wind's blowing, balls can wiggle and move so easily,” Simpson said. “The unfortunate thing and the reason I don't think it's a good rule is golf is supposedly the last gentleman's game. There is so much on the player to call the penalty on themselves. When wind or other natural things affect the golf ball, the player shouldn't be penalized.”