Is it a stupid Rule or not?

Following the Players Championship, a lively discussion ensued amongst the Round Table members via email about a penalty assessed to Keegan Bradley during the second round when his ball moved on the 16th green after he had marked it.

PGATOUR.COM: During the second round of the Players Championship, Keegan Bradley had a birdie putt from 10 1/2 feet at the par-5 16th hole. Bradley put his marker behind the ball but had not picked up the ball when a sudden gust of wind blew it across the green. Thinking he had officially marked the ball, he returned it to its original spot, missed the birdie putt, and tapped in for a par.

Or so he thought. He made the turn and was on the second hole when Chief Referee Gary Young told Bradley he had broken Rule 9.4a. Because he had put the mark down but not picked up the ball, he had not officially marked his ball when it was moved by an outside agency. As a result, the Rules of Golf state that he should have played the ball from where it stopped rolling, not return it to its original position.

Bradley was told he was being assessed a two-shot penalty, his par turning into a double-bogey. It would be his only over-par hole in a round that included birdies on holes 2, 13 and 15.

“Everyone in my group, and I guarantee most of the entire field, thought the USGA changed the rule to simplify it,” Bradley said. “Put your coin down, that’s where your ball is. So put my coin down, the ball moved, a huge gust of wind came up.

“I looked at the guys in my group,” he continued, “and we all said, yep, the coin was down first, all good. Didn’t think about it again until Gary came up and spoke to me on 2, and proud of the way I handled that because that was tough news, especially with some tough holes in front of me.”

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine: In case you guys on the Round Table weren’t aware of this, here’s a ruling that proves once again, THE RULES ARE RIDICULOUS.  Penalties should be assessed for cheating, not for folly.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario: I couldn’t disagree more Jim. This rule is so simple, yet this MIMBO hasn’t taken the time to educate himself on it. 100% his own fault. And only the Tour would term this a Rules Gaffe…it’s a player gaffe.

Deeks: But Craig, you’re not defending the Rule, you’re defending the Tour’s decision to call him on it.  The Rule is still idiotic.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine: As I understand this, if he marks his ball and picks it up and replaces it and it moves, he just puts it back and there’s no penalty. However, if he marks his ball but doesn’t pick it up and it moves and he puts it back, there is a penalty. Why is one different from the other? In neither case does he cause the ball to move. In neither case is there any advantage gained. Stupid rule IMO.

Deeks: I rest my case.  Thank you, O Publisher.

Loughry: Not quite that cut and paste Peter. There are times where the player can be deemed to have caused it his/her ball to move, but yes, the rules changed to err on the side of caution (because greens barely have grass on them anymore, and we push conditions to their utmost limits for these players).  And it was certainly windy that day.

He put his mark down, he’s an idiot for not picking his ball up. Why bother marking it then? Seriously? What’s the point of marking it at that point if you had no intention of picking it up? And as a self proclaimed player, but also an L4 Rules Official, and a part time Tour caddie, I can tell you the majority of players if they want perspective while walking around their ball, WILL PLACE the ball thing behind the mark (so it’s not in play, but they can see their location), not leave it in place with their mark behind it, nor replace it with the mark still behind the ball. He’s dumb for doing it, and dumber for not knowing it could cause an issue. This is the same situation as hitting your ball from the fairway, it’s sitting on top of a mound on the green, and by the time you get up to the green, it’s moved down the slope. You simply play it from its new position. All he had to do was pick the ball up, and he’d be safe, he didn’t, so it’s like a continuation from his previous shot. Like I said, if he had no intention of picking the ball up, why mark it at that point. Rule 9.2 if anyone is interested.

Deeks: Craig, you’re still not convincing me that the rule is anything but ridiculous.  And I can assure you there is not one amateur in a million who knows the rule, and even fewer who would ever call it on someone. The fact that the rule exists does not make it justified, especially on a day with 40 mph winds.  Who’s to say that Bradley wasn’t about to pick it up before the wind blew it across the green?  He may well be dumb, but I can’t see how he was at fault, and the whole incident didn’t give him any advantage. What if the ball had blown into the hole?  Do you think he wouldn’t have voluntarily put it back where it was?

Mumford: Once you put a mark behind the ball, it should be considered out of play. Are you allowed to putt the ball with the mark still in place?

Michael Schurman, PGA Master Professional: I agree with Peter. Any ball marked should be out of play. The player shouldn’t be obligated to pick up the ball immediately. It should be at his discretion. Jim is right. This is an inconsistent concept and unnecessarily unfair. Craig knows the rules. It’s a good thing the rules were re-written to make them easier to understand and simpler thus avoiding silly situations. HaHa. The best players in the world should be qualified rules experts. After all, doesn’t their success depend on it? If they don’t know the rule, how do they know if they are entitled to relief or in what form?

Are we going to see a time when no player will make any rules interpretations, drops or penalties without a Rules Official standing right there on the spot? If so, then all rules must be decided then and there with no opportunity for it to be overturned later. just like all other sports.

Besides this only cost Bradley close to $300,000 plus points but look how much money was exchanged in the betting market…possibly millions.

Hal Quinn, Vancouver: Hey Guys: sorry to be late to the discussion… you know with the Rockies and the Jet Stream things get held up.

From this delayed perspective, having had the benefit of all your bon mots, I agree with you all. Just kidding. The best thing to come out of all this is that we will not have to put up with Bradley’s pre-shot histrionics for a while in prime time. Saddled with the synapses that drive him to walk back in and walk back out of every shot, then twirl the club (even the putter!) and then walk back out before squatting to become a 5 ft 6 in golfer instead of 6 ft 1 in ( or whatever, who cares?) — and missing cuts — not surprising that he couldn’t think of, you know, the rules of golf while, you know, playing f@#king golf. Not that he spends the rest of the week in a 9-5. Not that he has other career/job pressures (or life experience) that require most of his energy like the majority of the rest of the planet’s bipeds. That’s all he does — play f@#king golf — and he doesn’t know the rules of the only thing he has done since high school? It is to weep. Dems are the rules, and while they have been modified under duress when necessary, that’s how they read when Pat’s brain-dead nephew marked and didn’t pick up. And BTW, Pat should get him a Kleenex endorsement. He wipes his nose with the back of his hand repeatedly, on camera of course, throughout every round in which he’s contended. That should be at least a one stroke (swipe?) penalty.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours: Also, late to the conversation and I for one agree with Craig.  You have to pick the ball up to consider it marked.  So many guys drop their marker behind the ball and then move it with their finger to an appropriate spot before picking up the ball.  The only way to consider the ball “marked” is when the marker is in place and the ball is then picked up.  Otherwise it’s still “in play”.  Same thing when dropping a ball.  You place a tee to outline the drop area, and then drop the ball.  The official often states “ball is now in play” even though the marker is still in the ground.  If the ball is in play and moves, you have to follow the proper protocol and play it where it ends up.  That’s my interpretation.  It’s just amazing that nobody in the group knew the rule, especially the caddies, who should bear some of that responsibility.

My two cents.

Mumford: Good input TJ but if the ball is still in play when marked until you pick it up, why are you prohibited from putting the ball when marked? Shouldn’t this Rule be amended to state that any ball that is marked is out of play, whether picked up or not?

Deeks: And is it not possible, in this instance, that the ball blew away in the instant before Bradley was about to pick it up?  So, if it was still in play, should he have putted it from where it stopped after being, er, blown?  What if it had blown into the water?  A one-stroke penalty and a drop in the fringe? What if it had blown into the hole?  Counted as the shot that initially arrived on the green? Face it, boys, the rule is stupid.  Any time a mark is put behind a ball, and the hand has left the marker, the ball should be deemed out of play, whether it’s on the ground or not.

Schurman: It’s true, that’s the rule. The question remains “Why”. When establishing the rules someone must have decided that the act of marking one’s ball MUST include picking it up. There isn’t any logical reason why. If the player wants to place a coin behind his ball in accordance with the rules, let him. Once he leaves the coin, the ball would be considered marked. I don’t see any advantage or disadvantage to the player or his fellow competitors if this was the case. What I do see is one more ridiculous rule to cause people to be critical of the rules in general. eg look at this discussion. However, I do agree that caddies and players are extremely weak in their knowledge of something that is part of their livelihood.

Mumford: OK readers, it’s your turn. Please use the Comments section below.

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The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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