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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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.

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Woods fires shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.