Dustin Johnson\‘s Lost Ball on No. 3
When Dustin Johnson tried to cut the corner on the par-4 third hole with a driver, his ball had other ideas and headed near the 16th green. The ball sailed into a heavily wooded area behind the green. The area is marked as a lateral water hazard.
The forward observer with the group did not see the ball come down and many spectators and volunteers in the area heard but did not see the ball rattling around in the trees. The referee with the group, USGA President Jim Hyler, knew they would be searching for the ball. Hyler used all the information available to him in the search, including NBC, the USGA’s television broadcast partner. Unfortunately, video could not help because cameras lost sight of the ball when it came over the TV towers. Per the Lost Ball Rule – Rule 27, Johnson, his caddie and everyone in the area began the allotted five-minute search. When the five minutes elapsed, and per the definition of a lost ball, Johnson’s ball was deemed to be lost, even though it was found in the hazard on the sixth minute.
This leads to the question of whether or not Johnson could take relief under the Water Hazard Rule. In this case the answer is "no." A player is only able to take relief under the Water Hazard Rule when it is "known or virtually certain" that the ball is in the hazard. In Johnson’s case it was not known or virtually certain to be in the hazard at the end of the five-minute search when his ball became lost.
This meant that the only rule Johnson could utilize is the Lost Ball Rule, which calls for the stroke and distance penalty. After going back to the tee and hitting his third shot, he eventually finished with a double-bogey 6.
Sergio Garcia and Shattered Tee Markers
At the fourth tee of the final round of the U.S. Open, Sergio Garcia hit a wayward tee shot. In a moment of frustration he slammed his club down onto one of the tee markers and split it in half.
Would this be a Rules violation?
It’s very important that tee markers remain in the same place throughout a round to ensure the competitors are playing the exact same course. In fact, when USGA officials set them at the U.S. Open they apply a small mark of white paint to identify the spot where the tee has been placed for the day. As it turns out, this helped with the Sergio situation. Officials were able to quickly replace the broken tee marker with a new one and put it on the exact same spot without a problem.
In answering the question regarding Sergio and the Rules, the Tee Marker Rule will be our reference. Tee markers have varying status depending on whether or not you have played a stroke from within the tee. Prior to hitting your tee shot, the tee markers are deemed to be fixed. After you hit from the teeing ground, the markers are deemed to be movable obstructions.
We have a great Decision covering varying situations regarding tee markers during a round and before and after you have made a stroke from the tee:
11-2/2 Tee-Marker Moved by Player
Rule 11-2 states that before a player plays his first stroke with any ball from the teeing ground, the tee-markers are deemed to be fixed. Thereafter, Decision 11-2/1 clarifies that they are obstructions and if movable, may be moved (see Definition of "Obstruction").
In view of the fact that tee-markers are initially fixed, and when moved can have a significant effect on the competition, the following are examples of the appropriate ruling in various circumstances. In all cases a moved tee-marker should be replaced. In some cases, the replacement of the tee-marker may affect the penalty to the player.
(a) A player moves a tee-marker before playing his first stroke with any ball from the teeing ground because the tee-marker interferes with the lie of the ball, his stance or his area of intended swing — loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play for breach of Rule 13-2.
(b) A player moves a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground because, in his view, the tee-markers are too close together, too far back, aimed in the wrong direction or
some similar reason — disqualification under Rule 33-7, unless
the tee-marker is replaced before the player or any other player plays from the teeing ground, in which case the penalty is modified to loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
(c) A player moves a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground as a result of falling over the marker — no penalty and the tee-marker should be replaced.
(d) A player moves a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground as a result of intentionally kicking it or striking it with a club — no penalty and the tee-marker should be replaced.
(e) A player lifts a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground for no apparent reason and without authority under the Rules — no penalty and the tee-marker should be replaced.
Part D answers our Sergio situation; he had already made a stroke prior to moving and breaking the tee marker. So the Spaniard incurred no penalty.
Paul Casey And The 14th Hole
On the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open, Paul Casey hit a short pitch shot onto the green but well short of the hole. In disgust, he looked down and without realizing where his ball would come to rest tapped his divot with the club. Subsequently, the ball rolled back towards him and came to rest near the divot that he had tapped down. This action brought questions about whether or not Casey was in breach of Rule 1-2 (Exerting Influence on Ball).
The U.S. Open Rules Committee reviewed the situation on video and discussed it with the player before his scorecard was returned. The Committee determined that Casey had no intention to influence the position or movement of the ball; therefore, no penalty was assessed. This conclusion is supported by Decision 1-2/8 Player Presses Down Turf as Ball Is Rolling Towards Area, which states the following:
Q. A player’s ball lies through the green at the bottom of a slope. The player makes a stroke and sees that his ball is rolling back down the slope towards the spot from which he just played. Before the ball reaches that spot, the player presses down a raised piece of turf in that area with the intent of ensuring that his ball will not come to rest against the raised piece of turf or in the divot hole (emphasis added). Is the player in breach of Rule 1-2?
A. Yes, as he took an action with the intention to influence the movement of the ball.
If the player had not realized his ball was returning to the area, there would be no breach.
Westwood\‘s Unplayable Lie At No. 18
During the second round of the 2010 U.S. Open, Lee Westwood drove into a fairway bunker at the par-5 18th hole. Unfortunately, the ball was snuggled up against the tall fescue grass on the edge of the bunker. Lee asked his referee to explain his options under the Rules of Golf to get him out of his tangled mess.
Rule 28 is the Ball Unplayable Rule and it’s the only one that pertained to Westwood’s situation. Under a penalty of one stroke, Westwood had three different options to consider. Here they are:
a. Play 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 point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or
c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
The catch in Westwood’s situation was that his ball was in a bunker. The Unplayable Ball Rule goes on to say that if your ball is in a bunker, when taking options B or C, the ball must remain in the bunker.
Westwood carefully weighed all his options and, after taking one penalty stroke, he chose to use option B to a spot which would allow him enough room to get the ball up and out of the bunker safely.
Westwood went on to make a bogey-6 on the hole.
Ball Overhanging a Hole
Occasionally, a player will stroke a putt and it seemingly doesn’t have enough gas to get into the hole, or does it? This was the situation Jim Furyk encountered during the first round of the U.S. Open.
Fortunately, we have a rule to help you determine when your ball is at rest when it overhangs the hole – Rule 16-2.
Essentially, Rule 16-2 tells us what a player is allowed to do. He’s permitted enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay AND an additional 10 seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If the ball hasn’t fallen into the hole by then, it is deemed to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole.
The USGA’s website has a great video to help further explain this Rule. Click here to view it.