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Statement on Jon Rahm Ruling at the Memorial Tournament July 20, 2020

On the 16th hole during the final round of the Memorial Tournament, the PGA TOUR ruled that Jon Rahm made a stroke from the greenside rough after having caused his ball to move. As a result, Rahm was notified by the PGA Tour that he was in breach of Rule 9.4 (Ball Lifted or Moved by Player), and because he did not replace the ball before making a stroke, he was assessed two penalty strokes. 

The breach was discovered through television footage that showed that his ball had moved a small amount when he placed his club near the ball before making the stroke. Video review is one of many essential practices to ensure all reliable and readily available sources of information are utilized to determine the facts necessary to applying the Rules of Golf, in addition to other information sources that include talking to players. These practices were outlined in a 2017 statement, which can be found here.

As a further explanation of how the Rules of Golf apply in this situation, an understanding of the “naked eye” standard is required. The definition of “move” and Rule 20.2c (Applying “Naked Eye” Standard When Using Video Evidence) both include this term, which places limits on the use of video evidence when a Committee applies the Rules. This Rule ensures players are not held to a higher standard than what could reasonably be expected of them while playing the game without such additional evidence.

In viewing the video in real-time (that is, not in slow motion), it can be seen that Rahm’s ball moved. In applying the “naked eye” standard, and recognizing that Rahm noted his awareness was not on the ball, the PGA TOUR determined (even though the video was zoomed in) that the movement could have been visible for a golfer standing at address had he or she been looking at the ball. As such, they applied the general penalty for a breach of Rule 9.4.

The USGA supports the PGA TOUR’s ruling, noting that a Committee must make judgments when applying the Rules of Golf during a competition.