The LPGA rules staff is standing by its decision that Lydia Ko did not have to definitively identify her golf ball stuck in a tree to be granted an unplayable lie today at the North Texas Shootout.
Ko’s lob shot at the 14th hole Thursday at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout went into a tree beside the green and didn’t come down. Her caddie, Jason Hamilton, climbed the tree but was unable to definitively identify, or knock loose, a ball in a branch just above him, where spectators said Ko’s ball came to rest. LPGA rules official Brad Alexander ultimately ruled that there were enough witnesses who saw the ball land there that a definitive identification wasn’t necessary.
Ko made triple bogey at the hole and shot 75.
Here is the LPGA’s response to a GolfChannel.com query asking for an explanation of the ruling:
The officials involved in the ruling with Lydia Ko today on the 14th hole referenced Decision 27/12 to support their ruling. Due to the fact that it was roughly a 30-yard shot, the spectators were able to see Lydia’s ball from start to finish and therefore provided indisputable evidence that the ball in the tree was indeed Lydia’s ball. Therefore the ball did not need to be identified as it was never lost. The USGA confirmed that in a situation where observers indisputably saw the player’s ball in motion come to rest in a specific location at which the ball remains visible, the ball has been identified as the player’s ball. Thus, since the ball in the tree was deemed as Lydia's ball, she was then able to proceed under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable.
Decision 27/12: Identification of Ball Through Testimony of Spectator
Q. A’s ball and B’s ball came to rest close together. Neither A nor B could identify one of the balls as his ball because they were using balls with identical markings. A spectator who saw both shots land was able to state which ball belonged to A and which one belonged to B. May his testimony be accepted, or should both balls be deemed lost because they could not be identified by A and B?
A. If the Committee determined that, based on information given by the spectator, A and B were able to identify their balls, the balls should not be deemed lost. Otherwise, they would have to proceed under Rule 27-1.