Former USGA rules official explains Woods ruling

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 17, 2013, 8:04 pm

(Editor's note: Kendra Graham, former USGA director of women's competitions, explains the ruling on Tiger Woods' illegal drop, and subsequent two-stroke penalty, Friday at the Masters.)

During the second round on Friday April 12, Tiger Woods hit his third shot onto the green at the par-5 15th hole. It struck the flagstick and bounced back into the pond in front of the green. This pond is defined as a water hazard with yellow painted lines. In this instance, the player had three options.


Rule 26-1 - The player may under penalty of one stroke

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or

A Dropping Zone (or Ball Drop) was also established by the Committee and was located short left of the pond. Appendix I to the Rules of Golf suggests establishing special areas on which balls may or must be dropped when it is not feasible or practicable to proceed exactly in conformity with Rule 26-1 (Water Hazards and Lateral Water Hazards). The Committee recognized that with certain hole locations on the 15th hole, dropping a ball in accordance with Rule 26-1b may not be possible, therefore, a Ball Drop is necessary. It is an underlying principle to the Rules of Golf that the player should not be limited to just the stroke-and-distance option when proceeding under Rule 26-1.

The reference point the player would have used in proceeding under Rule 26-1b would have been the point where the ball last crossed the water hazard, which in this case, would have been where it rolled into the pond after having struck the flagstick.

As was evidenced at the time, Tiger walked down to the pond and surveyed the Ball Drop and possibly where he might have dropped a ball in accordance with Rule 26-1b. He then returned to the area from which he had last played.


Rule 20-2b – Dropping and Re-Dropping; Where to Drop

When a ball is to be dropped as near as possible to a specific spot, it must be dropped not nearer the hole than the specific spot which, if it is not precisely known to the player, must be estimated.

In this instance, the specific spot was known since there was a divot from the previous stroke. (In many cases, there will not be a divot or other indicator as to the specific spot, underscoring the need for the language “as nearly as possible.”) Tiger dropped the ball and played it, scoring bogey 6 on the hole. Prior to completion of his round, the Committee received a phone call from a television viewer who believed Tiger may have played from a wrong place.


Rule 20-7, Playing from Wrong Place

c. Stroke Play – If a player makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes under the applicable Rule. He must play out the hole with the ball played from the wrong place, without correcting his error, provided he has not committed a serious breach (see Note 1).

Note 1: A competitor is deemed to have committed a serious breach of the applicable Rule if the Committee considers he has gained a significant advantage as a result of playing from a wrong place.

In this case, the applicable Rule is 26 (the general penalty is listed at the end of the Rule). There is a penalty regardless of whether the player plays from a wrong place on purpose or by accident, knowingly or unknowingly. Intent has nothing to do with the outcome. A common breach of this Rule occurs when a competitor moves his ball-marker on the putting green because it interferes with his fellow-competitor’s play. If he forgets to move it back and plays from a wrong place, he incurs a two-stroke penalty under the applicable Rule (in that scenario, Rule 20-3a). Also important is the second part of Rule 20-7c. The error is NOT CORRECTED unless a SERIOUS BREACH has occurred, which to some players is counterintuitive. Suffice it to say that the additional two strokes take care of any small or insignificant advantage that may have been gained. The Rule goes on to explain what a player should do if he believes a serious breach has occurred. (Note 1 gives guidance regarding a serious breach.)


Tiger Woods

Prior to Tiger finishing his round and signing his scorecard, the Committee looked at the footage and consulted with officials who were on the hole while the drop occurred. They determined that the ball had been dropped “near enough” to where he had last played, and in their eyes there was no breach of Rule 20-7. They chose neither to discuss the incident with Tiger nor to keep him from signing his scorecard. But during his post-round huddle with the media, when asked about his fifth shot on the 15th hole, Tiger shared the following:

“Well, I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, it's really grainy there. And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop. So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I took, tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit. And that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back. I felt that that was going to be the right decision to take off four right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly.”

When this information was brought to the Committee’s attention late Friday night, it changed their opinion about him dropping the ball “near enough” and their decision not to penalize him. This statement indicated that Tiger had not attempted to drop the ball “as nearly as possible” to the spot where he had last played. He stated he had purposely dropped the ball 2 yards behind that point, which ultimately meant he had played from a wrong place. Although Tiger did say he intended to drop his ball 2 yards behind the previous spot, it is important to note that this statement does not mean that the player intended to drop the ball in a wrong place and play it from there or to intentionally break a Rule. It merely clarified that he had not abided by Rule 26-1a by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.

The Committee asked Tiger to meet with them Saturday, and after Tiger confirmed his statements from the previous day, the Committee concluded that he had played from a wrong place and that he must incur a penalty of two strokes. However, Rule 6-6d (Wrong Score for Hole) explains the competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his score card. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified.

In many similar circumstances, a player would have been disqualified for a breach of Rule 6-6d. A player is not absolved from penalty under this Rule for failure to include a penalty that he did not know he had incurred. However, in this case, the Committee believed that they had done the player an injustice by not discussing the possible infraction of Rule 20-7 with him before he signed his scorecard and thus used Rule 33-7 to correct the situation.


Rule 33-7, Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion

A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.

Any penalty less than disqualification must not be waived or modified.

If the Committee had had Saturday’s conversation with Tiger on Friday before he signed his scorecard with Tiger providing the same information, he would have received a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place (ultimately, the net result ended up being the same). It is important to keep in mind that the reason the Committee used their discretion and invoked Rule 33-7 was because they considered his infraction before he signed his scorecard and incorrectly determined it a non-event. The outcome would have been different had they not learned of his possible breach until after he had signed his scorecard. Had that been the case, Tiger would have been disqualified for a breach of Rule 6-6d and the Committee would not have used Rule 33-7.

Rule 33-7 is not new; it has been in the book, according to my research, since 1952. Rule 33 (The Committee) outlines all of the responsibilities of the Committee in charge of a competition and is one of the longest Rules in the book. Its counterpart is Rule 6 (The Player), which highlights all of the player’s responsibilities. There is a relatively new Decision 33-7/4.5 (went into effect in 2011 and was revised in 2012), which often was mentioned in connection with this ruling. It really had very little, if any, bearing on the decision made by this Committee. The wording of Rule 33-7 is quite broad and lets the Committee use their discretion in waiving, modifying or imposing a penalty of disqualification. (They do not have that right in regard to waiving or modifying a lesser penalty, e.g., one stroke, two strokes, loss of hole.)

Decisions are written to help interpret and further clarify the Rules of Golf. Decision 33-7/4.5 was written to give guidance to Committees on when to use Rule 33-7. It gives many different examples as to when the Committee would be justified in waiving a penalty of DQ and when the Committee would not be justified.

In this case, the Committee felt justified in using Rule 33-7 to waive the penalty of disqualification because they knew of the player’s possible breach before he signed his scorecard. They do not have to “fit” their reason into one of the scenarios listed in Decision 33-7/4.5. The most recognizable example in this new decision relates to a situation involving a player and HD television. The decision explains that the use of Rule 33-7 by the Committee in absolving a player of a DQ penalty involving a breach of a Rule that was only detectable by HD television would be justified.

The decision is not all encompassing. It is there to provide insight, but ultimately, the Committee makes the final decision.

In conclusion, it is important to keep in mind the words found in Rule 34-3, Committee’s Decision. In the absence of a referee, any dispute or doubtful point on the Rules must be referred to the Committee, whose decision is final.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”