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USGA's Davis: New rule not because of Tiger

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The Tiger Rule?

Not exactly.

Earlier this week, when the USGA and R&A announced New Decision 18/4 – which stipulates that players will no longer be penalized if their ball’s movement was not “reasonably discernible” to the naked eye – it was easy to characterize the rule as a reaction to what befell Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship in September. At Conway Farms, Woods was slapped with a two-shot penalty after officials deemed that his ball moved as he was clearing loose impediments.

USGA executive director Mike Davis told Golf Digest’s Jaime Diaz in an exclusive interview, however, that this new rule has “been in the works” for more than three years.

“Contrary to what some think, the whole thing was already written and essentially put to bed long before Tiger’s issue ever came up,” Davis told Diaz in a piece that appeared Thursday on GolfDigest.com. “It’s been in the works since before I became executive director in 2010. Truth be known, when the Tiger thing happened, everybody involved on both sides of the pond, said, ‘Oh man, talk about bad timing.’ Because we didn’t want people to think we’d written it just because of Tiger.

“The decision had already been written and everybody had signed off on it. These things take a long time to write, and take a long time to go through the approval process. And this has been done long before the Tiger incident.”

Davis added that the change is good for the game because it returns the rule to its original intent. Before the advent of slow-motion HD cameras, of course, it was the naked eye that determined whether the ball moved from its original position.