NCGA Golf

Fall 2018

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P hil Mickelson made a few headlines this summer, but unfortunately not for low scores. He had two separate run-ins with the Rules of Golf that received a lot of attention and we're going to break the rulings down and see exactly what he did wrong. U.S. Open Saturday During the third round of the U.S. Open, Mickelson provoked a heated con- troversy when he made a stroke at his ball while it was still moving after his first putt on the 13th green. The ball was clearly going to roll off the green and probably another 30 yards or so down the hill, but in frustration Phil made a stroke at it, incurring the two-stroke penalty for playing a moving ball. There was a lot of discussion about whether Mickelson should have been disqualified for the breach and many Rules were cited. So here's a look at the Rules in question: Rule 14-5 – A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving. There are some exceptions listed in the Rule, none of which apply to this situation. The penalty for a breach of Rule 14-5 is two strokes in stroke play. Rule 1-2 – A player must not (i) take an ac- tion with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play or (ii) alter physical conditions with the intent of affecting the playing of a hole. At first glance, it looks like this Rule could apply, however it has an exception that states, "An action expressly permitted or expressly prohibited by another Rule is subject to that other Rule, not Rule 1-2." Since Rule 14-5 covers making a stroke at a moving ball, Rule 1-2 did not apply to Phil's situation. So while Rule 1-2 has a clause that dis- qualifies a player for a serious breach of the Rule, because 1-2 did not apply, there was no separate serious breach clause to be con- cerned about. Rule 14-5 comes with a two- stroke penalty and that was it. The debate then turned to his actions being against the spirit of the game. The Rule in question would be Rule 33-7, which in the end states: If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this Rule. There is no argument that Mickelson's action was discourteous to the USGA and against the spirit of the game. But there was another Rule he could have used that would have actually saved him strokes: Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable. He could have taken a one-stroke penalty and played from the previous spot under stroke and dis- tance. The fact that he actually took a less advantageous route and did so out of mid- round frustration more than a desire to be disruptive and discourteous, the USGA Committee did not consider the act a seri- ous breach of etiquette. The Greenbrier At his very next tournament, on Sun- day at the Greenbrier he fell afoul of Rule 13-2 by improving his line of play when he stepped on some fescue in front of the tee- ing ground. Rule 13-2 prohibits improving the lie of the ball, the area of intended stance or swing, the area in which a ball is to be dropped or the line of play. Specifi- cally, the Rule prohibits improving one of those areas by moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed. The tee markers were placed such that the tall fescue both- ered Mickelson, who was thinking of play- ing a lower trajectory tee shot. So, he pressed down the growing fescue to make way for his lower shot. While the Rule allows you to make im- provements within the teeing ground itself (the two club-length rectangle framed by the tee markers), the fescue was in front of the teeing ground and thus not subject to the exception. He was penalized two strokes for the breach and made headlines once again. This probably won't be the last time Mickelson or another Tour player raises alarm bells with the Rules, especially with major changes going into effect in January. Fortunately for Mickelson, these two situ- ations will be handled in almost exactly the same manner under the new Rules. Ryan Farb is the NCGA's Director of Rules and Competitions. In 2017, he earned his second straight perfect 100 score on the PGA/USGA Rules Exam. 78 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG R U L E S O F G O L F What ' s Up With Phil? BY RYAN FARB AP

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