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rules feature

My Top-10

Rulings

Mak Lok-lin, fresh from his latest golfing disaster, remembers the times when the Rules (or the interpretation of them) either helped or hindered the world’s finest players

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’ve never been accused of being a stickler for the rules when playing with my mates. Like them, I’ve used a foot wedge, dropped in some very advantageous places and rarely, if ever, have I gone back to the tee when discovering my ball has ended up Out of Bounds. This is only in the interests of speed of play you understand. When it comes to the blood, sweat and (often in my case) tears of intense formal competition, I treat the rules as sacred. But there I was, 6-down after six holes of the first round of the Dinnaebedaft Matchplay Classic and pondering a potential rules violation or two. Would I be man enough to call them upon myself? What would my heroes from the past have done? What rules decisions had they seen? Suddenly, before my eyes, the course started to blur and move in wavy lines and, in clumsy 1960’s TV fashion, I was transported to an earlier era…

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Ian Woosnam 2001 Open Championship Royal Lytham & St Annes

One too many: Ian Woosnam, 2nd tee, Open Championship, 2001

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AFP/Getty Images

Lytham is unique on the Open rota in that its first hole is a par three. It is no pushover however and regularly plays as one of the toughest holes on the course. Trailing by a shot at the start of the final round in 2001, Woosnam made his intentions clear when he almost holed in one; the ensuing tap-in birdie moving the 1991 Masters champion into a share of the lead – and inching him closer to his second Major title. A few minutes later as he stood on the second tee his caddie, Miles Byrne, turned to him and said, “You’re going to go ballistic, but I’ve got an extra club in here.” After trying two different drivers at the range before his round, Woosnam had teed off with both in his bag, making 15 clubs in total, a breach of rule 4-4 and resulting in a two-stroke penalty. His brilliant birdie two was quickly erased and a bogey four was penciled on the scorecard. Woosnam administered what he described as a “bollocking” but didn’t fire Byrne on the spot. Despite also dropping shots at the next two holes, the wee Welshman played the next 15 in 4-under, carded a 71 and finished tied for third. Excluding just the penalty he would have placed solo second, but without the other dropped shots and the loss of momentum he may well have gone on to take the title. Woosnam eventually fired Byrne two weeks later, when he failed to show up for an early tee time in Sweden. Woosie had to break into his locker to get his shoes, but shot a 69 with replacement caddie Tommy Strand on the bag. Strand said afterwards: “I had no time for breakfast and only had a drink of water on the fourth tee but I did count the clubs!” 25


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Craig Stadler 1987 Andy Williams Open Torrey Pines Golf Course

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In a uniquely Asian moment, at the 1994 Alfred Dunhill Masters played in Bali, Nick Faldo had surged into a six-shot lead with seven holes to play when the “caller” struck. At the second hole in the third round, Faldo had removed a piece of coral from behind his ball in a bunker, as he is allowed to do on the European Tour. Unfortunately, the event was being played under the auspices of the Australasian Tour, where such an action is an infraction. Once again, the inevitable “incorrect scorecard” outcome of a ridiculously belated call was the result and he was disqualified from the event and near-certain winnings of over $100,000. Instead the “worthy” winner was that unforgettable Canadian pro, Jack Kay.

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Ernie Els 1994 US Open Oakmont Golf Club

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Paul Azinger 1991 Doral Ryder Open Doral Golf Resort & Spa

Zinger became another ridiculously belated victim of the mysterious “caller” (who seems to have unbridled access to rules officials) when playing in the Doral Ryder Open in 1991. Lying second by a shot after shooting a 65, Azinger was taken to a CBS television truck to review film of him playing a shot from the previous day. Lying semi-submerged in a water hazard on 18, Paul decided to attempt to play the ball rather than take a penalty drop. From the film, it appeared that he had “pawed the ground” in the hazard, shifting small stones as he did so. When the rules official explained that moving loose impediments in a hazard is a breach of rule 13-4, Azinger agreed and was disqualified. Afterwards, he said he shuffled his feet the way he would in a bunker, had no issue with being corrected, but wasn’t happy that anyone could call in 24 hours later and call an issue the tour officials had no problem with at the time. Funnily enough, earlier this year at the same hole at the same tournament Aaron Baddley disqualified himself for the same reason. In round two he asked to move a large rock, was told why he couldn’t, then realized he had kicked stones away the previous day and called the penalty on himself. No onanist “caller” required. HKGOLFERMAGAZINE.COM

The popularity of the modern game and extensive television coverage has resulted in a number of “local rules” relating to relief from TV cables and towers as well as viewing grandstands. The relief relates to immovable obstructions. In the final round of the 1994 US Open, leader Ernie Els, nervously hooked his first drive of the day into deep rough. Reaching his ball, it was clear that an ABC camera crane was partially obstructing his line to the green. The USGA rules official, Trey Holland, ruled that the crane was an immovable obstruction and Els was able to take a free drop in a nearby clear area. Els eventually bogied the hole and would go onto win in an 18 hole Monday playoff. However, our “caller” missed this one because the crane was hardly immovable. Not on ly had it already been moved four t i mes t hat day because it was i nter feri ng wit h another player’s line, immediately after Els played it was moved over to the ninth hole to cover play there. This was Els’s first major win, but came after the ugliest playoff in Major history. Playing in a three-way playoff with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts, Els started bogey, triple bogey. He was in good company however, a nd the three stooges staggered around Oakmont until Els won in extra holes.

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Bobby Jones 1930 US Open Interlachen Country Club

Many remember Bobby Jones calling a penalty on himself in the 1925 US Open, an event he lost by one shot. Commenting on the resulting wave of praise Jones said: “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank”. The USGA have an award for sportsmanship called the Bob Jones Award. However, if not actually robbing the bank, in 1930 Bobby got an interest free loan under dubious circumstances. 1930 was Bobby Jones’ annus mirabilis, his “Grand Slam” year. In the third leg of “The Impregnable Quadrilateral”, the US Open at Interlachen, Jones was cruising to victory, leading by three shots with two holes to play in the final round. He then played an uncharacteristic wild slice on the notoriously difficult long par-3 17th. So wild in fact, that no-one actually saw where it ended up and the ball couldn’t be found. Lost ball, penalty, return to the tee? No. Step forward USGA referee Prescott Bush to give his ruling. Mr Bush not only decides that Jones’ ball is “probably” buried in a dried swamp, he then declares the dried swamp to be a lateral water hazard and allows Jones to take a one-shot penalty and drop near the green. Jones goes on to win by two shots, while Prescott Bush goes on to be father and grandfather to two US Presidents called George. HK GOLFER・AUG/SEP 2009

Getty Images (Faldo); Sports Illustrated Getty Images (Els); Augusta National/Getty Images

Getty Images (Stadler); AFP/Getty Images (Azinger)

At the final hole of the delightfully named Shearson Lehman Brothers Andy Williams Open in 1987, 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler tapped in his final putt and waved to the crowd, believing his 10-under-par total of 270 may not have caught George Burns, who won by four shots, but might be enough to pip JC Snead and Bobby Wadkins for second place and a useful $50,000 cheque. However, when he went to the tent to sign for his score, he was told he was being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard the previous day. When hearing this, many think of Roberto de Vicenzo missing out on a Masters playoff by not noticing a scoring transposition. However in Stadler’s case, as in many others, the real reason was a ridiculously belated imposition of a penalty. He was being penalized for an incident 26 hours before, during his third round, when he had knocked his ball into mud under a tree on the 14th hole. He resourcefully played his shot while kneeling down, but to avoid staining his trousers, he placed a towel on the ground first. No one said a thing at the time, or indeed for another day, until someone watching a highlights show spotted the incident and reported it to PGA officials. Unlike every other sport on earth, golf allows anyone with an opinion to suggest that players have broken the rules. In many cases, where video exists, it is played and replayed ad nauseum to determine if a rule has been broken. Again, no other sport would dream of doing this. Finally, there is seemingly no hesitation to go back in time to impose penalties and disqualify players, when there is no suggestion that they, or the rules officials accompanying them, had any idea a rule had been infringed. Again, no other sport would dream of doing this. Golf badly needs a set of guidelines relating to incidents such as these. What made Stadler’s situation worse was that it wasn’t clear that he had actually broken a rule at all. He was accused of “building a stance”, a two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-3, a rule intended to stop players “manipulating their surroundings so as to improve their footing before a hit.” Keeping one’s trousers clean is hardly improving one’s footing. Craig had the last laugh, however, when he was invited back ten years later to cut down the offending tree.

Nick Faldo 1994 Alfred Dunhill Masters Bali Golf & Country Club

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Getty Images (Tiger); Augusta National/Getty Images (Palmer)

Speaking of immovable objects, at the 1999 Phoenix Open, at the 13th hole of the final round, Tiger Woods got the break of the tournament after his tee shot landed in front of a boulder in a desert area to the left of the fairway. Rules official Orlando Pope quickly decided the obstacle fell in the category of a loose impediment which wasn't "solidly embedded'' and therefore could be moved. About a dozen men from the gallery rolled the 1,000-pound rock out of the way, and Woods hit into a greenside bunker, from where he got up and down for a birdie four. Although this ruling didn’t affect the outcome of the tournament (Rocco Mediate won the event, three strokes ahead of Woods in third), Woods was a Phoenix darling, having had a hole-in-one at the raucous 16th green in 1997, sparking the socalled “loudest noise ever heard on a golf course,” and it was suggested that he had received favourable treatment. Although the decision was widely panned at first, it was completely acceptable and was backed by previous rulings in similar situations. Of more concern to Woods in Phoenix that year was the drunk that heckled Woods at the 4th hole of that final round. After security wrestled him to the ground, they found a loaded gun in his backpack. Woods refused to return to the tournament until security was reviewed, and he didn’t play again until 2001. Unfortunately, at that tournament, someone rolled an orange onto the green as he was putting and the world number one hasn’t been back since.

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Arnold Palmer 1958 Masters Augusta National

During the final round of the Masters in 1958, Arnold Palmer was tied for the lead with playing partner Ken Venturi when the two arrived at the notorious par-3 12th. Palmer played a 6-iron to the 155-yard hole but found an area of soft ground through the back of the green where his ball plugged. He called for a ruling from the official on the spot, but unfortunately this turned out to be Arthur Lacey, the visiting President of the British PGA. Lacey turned down Palmer’s request for relief, which was correct everywhere else, but a local rule was in force at Augusta and Arnie should have been allowed to drop. That is when the trouble started. Arnold sullenly took a penalty drop and ended with a double bogey 5. He then played a second ball from next to the original spot and made par. In situations of uncertainty, a player may play a second ball and let the committee decide afterwards. However, according to Venturi, Arnie hadn’t declared he was playing a second ball until after he made double bogey with the first – a clear breach of the rules. Palmer denied this claim. Venturi came close to refusing to sign Palmer’s card at the end of the round, and there was bad blood between the two for decades afterwards. Venturi apparently said to Arnie “If you had holed the first ball, would you have played the second one?” It was an unfortunate incident and sullied what turned out to be Arnie’s first Major win.

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9

Annika Sorenstam 2000 Solheim Cup Loch Lomond

At the biennial Solheim Cup in 2000, the European pairing of Annika Sorenstam and Janice Moodie were 1-down to Pat Hurst and Kelly Robbins playing the 13th at Loch Lomond. With Hurst only 3-feet away for birdie, it looked as though the American’s were going to increase their lead. But then Annika miraculously holed her chip from off the green to great cheers from the partisan galleries. However, seconds later Robbins claimed that Sorenstam had played out of turn. Although Robbins was on the green, she said that Annika’s ball was in fact closer to the hole that she was. The match referee called the chief referee and then both captains appeared. A long discussion followed, after which the US captain Pat Bradley insisted that Annika replay her shot. At this point, Annika promptly burst into tears. After a several minute delay, she replayed the shot and, of course, missed. Hurst rolled in her own putt to take the Americans 2-up, which they turned into a 2-up victory four holes later. The match didn’t affect the overall result, a European win by three points. But the American “win at all costs” attitude certainly didn’t go down well.

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Boo Weekley 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational Bay Hill Club & Lodge

As anyone who has played the Old Course at St Andrews regularly knows, very large greens can lead to situations where one has to play a pitch shot from on the green to a distant pin. As a number of players have subsequently found out to their cost, hitting the pin in such a situation is actually a punishable offence. The fact that one was chipping doesn’t change the rule regarding having the pin tended or removed while playing on the green, and the penalty is a loss of hole in matchplay or two shots in strokeplay. At the par-3 2nd hole at Bay Hill, Tom Johnson played a 30-yard chip from a distant corner of the green toward the untended pin. The shot was beautifully played and his ball was tracking to the hole when his playing partner Boo Weekley suddenly realized the danger and ran over to remove the pin. A potential two-shot penalty saved? Not quite. Meanwhile, golf’s unique army of amateur rules officials was at work and “someone” raised the issue with rules officials. Unfortunately, both pros had forgotten Rule 17-2 on unauthorized attendance which states that a player has to request that someone tend or remove the pin. Johnson was formally asked if he had requested that the pin be removed, and he of course had to say no. Instead of Johnson g e t t i n g a t wo - sho t penalty, Weekley was instead penalized two shots, which he accepted w it h c o m m e n d a bl e grace, saying. “Thanks, I learned something.” Afterwards, Johnson told Boo, “You handle adversity better than anyone I've ever played with”, to which Boo eloquently replied “I don't t hink not hing ab out it ”, wh ic h i s almost certainly true.

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Phew! The sound of children chuckling brought me back. As the amateurish wavy lines cleared, I looked over at my twin nephews who were caddying for me, and saw them laughing at the five extra wedges I had been practicing with earlier and then stuffed into my bag, whilst pretend sword fencing with my non-conforming Cleveaway Big Trampoline Face driver and another driver that I had angrily bent out of shape during the round. Summoning up all of my courage, I did the honorable thing and put my hand up. That brought the round to a rather premature end, even by my staggeringly low standards, losing as I did 14 & 12 to set yet another record.* Ah well, there’s always next year…

Getty Images (Sorenstam / Weekley)

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Tiger Woods 1999 Phoenix Open TPC Scottsdale

*Editor’s note: The honorable Mak was actually correct. He was penalized the maximum two holes for each of the following violations: Rule 6.4 - having more than one caddie, Rule 4.4 - having more than 14 clubs, Rule 4.1 – playing with a non-conforming club and Rule 4.2 - club playing characteristics changed during play.

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Top 10 Rulings  

Mak Lok-lin's Top 10 Rulings

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