Ed Gowan with Carl Pettersson
The AGA’s own Ed Gowan was the rules official following the group of Carl Pettersson during the first round of the US Open when he was forced to stop himself in mid-swing when a fellow competitor’s ball from another fairway struck and moved Carl’s ball.
Here’s his account of the situation as it unfolded:
“Carl Pettersson was having a tough day at Merion. Although he was hitting the ball well, it seemed every bounce went the wrong way: running down a slope into the rough, just missing the green with a bad bounce, typical “bad luck” for the Open. Then on the long par 4 5th hole, he crushed a drive into the center of the steeply slanting fairway. When he addressed the ball for his second shot, from out of nowhere came a ball bouncing toward him.
I was standing in the rough about forty yards away as the ball came into our vision, a tee shot from the adjacent 2nd hole, at least sixty yards off-line. Just as Carl was in his final waggle before swinging (I don’t think he had begun to swing…but possibly so), moving his club from behind his ball, the other ball made perfect contact, knocking his ball at least fifteen feet away.
All in the group flinched, and Carl looked over with a quizzical expression, “What do I do now?” It was a simple ruling, ‘a ball at rest moved by an outside agency’ – just replace it in the original position if known. That was a question for a moment, was the original position identifiable? Carl didn’t know, and as I told him then he would have to drop as near as possible with no penalty, his caddie pointed out the depression in the wet fairway of his clubhead where he had addressed the ball – no question where the original spot was, and he then placed the ball there and played…making a par in spite of the adrenalin rush.
This has probably happened before, but the timing was exquisite. Two more seconds, and the “what if’s” would have been legion – hitting both balls, hitting the wrong one first, missing the ball altogether; then, was it a stroke or not? It could have gone on for some time before a decision could be reached.
Walking as a referee at the Open Championship is a true delight – a spectator for most of the time, and occasionally a quick reference for players in need.”
If you don’t see the video below, click here to view..notice the Rules official toward the end of the clip!