Rules Corner Blog

Choi’s Tee-Shot Into Lateral Water Hazard On No. 10

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – Leader Na Yeon Choi’s drive on the 10th hole during the final round was hit into the lateral water hazard down the left side. Choi advanced forward to the drive zone to evaluate where the ball crossed the margin of the hazard. The determination of this location is a question of fact and must be made by reviewing the circumstances and evidence available. 

In this case, the testimony of the players, marshals, referees, as well as the available television coverage, were used to determine if the ball last crossed the lateral water hazard margin by the fairway or close to the teeing ground (Decision 34-3/9).

The final determination was that the ball last crossed the hazard margin near the teeing ground. Choi opted to proceed under Rule 26-1a, the stroke and distance option of this Rule. She went on to make a triple-bogey 8.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

Leader Stays Out Of Trouble

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – Over the first three rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, 409 Rules incidents were reported by the referees walking with each group.  Not surprisingly, over half of these incidents involved either a water hazard or lateral water hazard (Rule 26).

The par-4 fifth has presented the most number of rulings of any hole on the course, with 56. Playing as the ninth-toughest hole, the lateral water hazard surrounding the putting green has seen plenty of action. Interestingly, the fairway on this hole is the most frequently hit during the championship (95.4 percent), but the green has been hit in regulation only 40 percent of the time. It doesn’t get any easier for the players after this hole, as the par-3 sixth is the toughest hole of the championship and presents a difficult two-hole stretch in the middle of the outward nine.

One player who has managed to avoid difficulty is 54-hole leader Na Yeon Choi. Thus far, Choi has managed to stay out of trouble and has not incurred a penalty of any kind through the first three days, going a long way to build the six-shot lead she holds heading into the final round.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

Ball Strikes An Outside Agency

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – Second-round leader Suzann Pettersen’s approach to the 11th hole during the third round struck a sprinkler head and bounced well beyond the hole. As defined by the Rules of Golf, a sprinkler head is an obstruction, but it is also an outside agency.

If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally stopped or deflected by an outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies (Rule 19-1).

These are the types of bounces that occur during a round of golf and the player must accept the result, whether good or bad. Pettersen was able to two-putt and make a par on the hole.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

One Player In A Group

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – After the second round of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open concluded Friday evening at Blackwolf Run, the field was cut to the low 60 players and ties, with 65 players making the cut at 5-over-par 149.

While groups of three were used during the first two rounds, players are paired in twosomes on Saturday and Sunday. However, when an odd number of golfers qualifies for the final 36 holes, it creates a situation where one golfer must play solo. Therefore, Meena Lee was the only competitor in the first pairing this morning.

Typically, when groups are two or three competitors, the Committee appoints each player with a marker, who is also a fellow-competitor. The marker is responsible for recording the fellow-competitor’s score (Rule 6-6). When there is only one player in a group, it is customary for the Committee to appoint a non-competitive playing marker.

Lee was given the option of having a playing marker, but she declined. Therefore, the referee for the group served as her marker. It is important to note that a marker is not a referee, but this does not preclude a referee from serving as a marker (See Definition of Marker).

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

Dropping A Ball On The Putting Green

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – The putting green is a special place on the golf course, to which certain permissions and prohibitions in the Rules of Golf apply.

One of those prohibitions is related to dropping the ball on the putting green. Typically, the player is not allowed to drop a ball on a putting green. For example, if a player is taking relief from an obstruction through the green, the nearest point of relief must not be on the putting green and the ball cannot be dropped on the putting green, even if the putting green is within one club-length of the nearest point of relief (Rule 24-2).The same conditions would apply for a player taking relief from an area of ground under repair near the putting green (Rule 25).

However, there are some limited exceptions.  One exception was used during the first round of on Thursday when Eun-Hee Ji and Ashley Armstrong each dropped their ball on the putting green on the 14th hole when taking relief from the lateral water hazard bordering the right side of the putting green.

Nothing in Rule 26 (Water Hazard Rule) prohibits the player from dropping on the putting green. As these players were dropping the ball no closer to the hole and within two club-lengths of the margin of the lateral water hazard, they were permitted to drop the ball on the putting green.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

Immovable Obstructions On The Putting Green

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – One of the unique aspects of Blackwolf Run is the putting green shared by the ninth and 18th holes, a unique architectural feature not seen much in this country. In the middle of this shared putting surface lies a large swale, at the bottom of which sits a drain. The Rules of Golf define such an artificial object as an obstruction, from which the player is entitled to relief.

Normally, if a player has interference from an immovable obstruction on her line of play, free relief is not available.  However, when the ball lies on the putting green, Rule 24-2a provides relief from interference by an immovable obstruction which is also on the putting green and on the player’s line of putt.

During the first round, Candie Kung’s second shot came to rest in a position where the drain was between her ball and the hole.  However, after consulting the referee walking with the group, it was determined that the obstruction did not intervene on Kung’s line of play and she played the ball as it lay.

For more information, see this video.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries for the USGA. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

Settling Ties

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – One of the most exciting outcomes for fans and players alike, in golf or in any sport, is a tie. However, the Rules of Golf allow a Committee in charge of the competition or the golf course to determine the method of breaking ties.

For example, the Committee may use any one of the following examples: 18-hole playoff, a 3-to-5-hole aggregate playoff, hole-by-hole playoff, or matching scorecards. The decision to break ties should be made known in advance of the competition, so that a judgment does not need to be made at the last minute and any claims of unfairness can be avoided. That being said, the responsibility to announce the manner, date and time for the decision of a tie falls squarely on the Committee (Rule 33-6: The Committee; Decision of Ties)

Appendix I provides guidelines and recommendations for a wide variety of methods to resolve ties, including those listed above, but nothing listed in this section of the Rules is a requirement and nothing prevents the Committee from allowing a tie to stand unbroken.

The 1998 U.S. Women’s Open determined its winner through an 18-hole playoff.  Since the playoff was still tied after 18 holes, the competitors played a hole-by-hole playoff to decide the winner. Se Ri Pak won on the second extra hole.

The Conditions of Competition for the 2012 Championship provide that an aggregate, three-hole playoff, comprised of holes 16-18 will be used.  If any competitors are still tied after these three holes are played, the 18th hole will be repeated until a champion is crowned.

In many sports, including professional football, baseball, or basketball, ties are settled by overtime or extra innings. In golf, a tie can be an acceptable result.

Rob Ockenfuss is a Manager, Rules Inquiries for the USGA. Email him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

Pak Plays From Hazard To Win Women's Open

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By Rob Ockenfuss

Kohler, Wis. – In 1998, 92 holes were played to determine the champion at the U.S. Women’s Open conducted at Blackwolf Run. It was the largest number of holes played to determine a winner in the championship’s history. On the par-4 18th hole of the 18-hole playoff between LPGA Tour rookie Se Ri Pak and amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn, Pak’ s drive on the dogleg-left par-4 rolled into the lateral water hazard bordering the left-hand side of the fairway.  Her ball came to rest in the long grass within the lateral water hazard, but outside of the water itself in a playable position.

The Rules of Golf permitted Pak to try to play the ball from inside the water hazard without penalty, but she was restricted on what she could do in terms of the shot. She was not permitted to test the condition of the hazard, which could include intentionally sticking an object into the ground or taking a practice swing that strikes either the water or the ground in the hazard.  Additionally, she was not allowed to ground her club in the hazard before making her stroke. And she was not permitted to touch or move loose impediments in the hazard (Rule 13-4).

She was allowed to take more than one club into the hazard with her and place the club or clubs she wasn’t going to use down in the hazard and she could touch grass and other growing things during practice swings and her backswing, provide she didn’t touch the ground or the water (see Note to Rule 13-4).

By playing her ball from the water hazard, instead of taking a penalty stroke under the Water Hazard Rule to extract her ball, Pak was able to save a stroke and make a bogey. Chuasiriporn, who was tied with Pak going into the 18th hole, also bogeyed, and the playoff continued into sudden death. On the 20th hole of the playoff, Pak made birdie to win the Women’s Open, a historic triumph that led to a plethora of young Korean golfers playing the LPGA Tour.

Rob Ockenfuss is Manager, Rules Inquiries for the USGA. E-mail him at rockenfuss@usga.org. 

 

 

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