June - 2012

What an amazing turn of events that occurred at the PGA Tour's Colonial event in May. I'm sure you probably saw or read about the very rare final hole Rule infraction that Zack Johnson committed.

On the 72nd hole with a three shot lead, Zack moved his ball marker on the green at the request of his fellow competitor, Jason Dufner. Somehow Zack, his caddie and the other players missed the fact that when it was his turn to putt, he failed to move his marker back to it's original position, and as such incurred two stroke penalty under Rule 20-7c.

The reason I bring this up is it happens to us all the time. It's just generally not at the expense of winning a tournament (although it could be…)

I will let you in on a great idea (I'm blowing my own horn) I came up with years ago whenever I move a ball at rest on the green. Tiger Woods says to turn over your marker, so that when you replace your ball to putt it will be noticeable that something is different. This works, but I would suggest that you try this-put your ball the moment you're asked to move it in your BACK pocket. This works so well because when you go back to putt, it forces you to stop and think-Wait! Something's different! (That is unless you ALWAYS put your ball in your back pocket). I think you get the idea, force yourself to do something different. Maybe put your ball in your sock, under your hat, or maybe in your mouth (not recommended!). But whatever different idea you come up with, it should make you stop and think.

Zack Johnson began an early celebration with his caddie (Damon Green) and both were so comfortable with a three-stroke lead, they missed a rather important detail. On the replay, Damon Green was walking away as Zack was moving his marker. Zack never told him he moved it, and potential disaster was looming. Without a three stroke lead, as Johnson said afterwards "There are a number of adjectives that I am calling myself right now. Lucky would be the biggest one I can think of."

Try my method, or come up with your own, but do something that forces you to stop and think.

Here's the Decisions that affected this ruling-

Rule 16-1B (The Putting Green; Lifting And Cleaning Ball), allowed Johnson to lift his ball without penalty when it was on the putting green.
Rule 20-1 (Relief Situations And Procedure; Lifting And Marking) requires a ball that must be replaced to have its position marked before it is lifted. The Note to Rule 20-1 says that if the ball-marker interferes with another player's play, it should be placed one or more clubhead-lengths to the side. In order to replace the ball when this has been done, the procedure must be reversed.

When Johnson placed his ball in front of his marker without moving the marker back to its original position and putted, he was in breach of Rule 20-7C (Playing From Wrong Place; Stroke Play). The penalty for playing from a wrong place in stroke play is two strokes and no other correction is required unless the breach is serious. Johnson's play from the wrong place was not a serious breach so he was required to add two strokes to his score and play out the hole with the ball played from the wrong place. (A serious breach occurs when the Committee considers that the player has gained a significant advantage as a result of playing from a wrong place. Obviously putting from a location one putter-head length to the side did not gain Johnson a significant advantage.)

Derek Duesler