February - 2013
At the Farmer's Insurance Open a few weeks ago I was surprised to see something happen that is rare now. A player (unnamed) asked to replace his ball after hitting a thin sand shot on the 16th hole at Torrey Pines.
The reason this is rare is that the ball manufactures have become so good at making balls that last, and the Rules reflect this.
I wrote about this before, but it's interesting to look at again and see how the USGA a few years ago changed the standards to be very strict and precise. In the past, if your ball was scratched you could easily replace it-not now.
RULE 5, THE BALL, covers this under 5-3. You should read this section to have a clear comprehension how to precede when this comes upů
By the way, to finish my story, the player who asked to replace his ball was denied by both fellow competitors. He was a little visibly irritated, but played his next shot. The reason I'm telling you this is he had a (impossible) 45 foot down-hill putt for par and made it! To see him laugh, and his fellow competitors tease him, is one of the many reasons to see a tournament live. Not everything makes it on TV.
5-3. Ball Unfit For Play
If a player has reason to believe his ball has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, he may lift the ball, without penalty, to determine whether it is unfit.
Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift and examine it, provided that he gives his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor an opportunity to examine the ball and observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned when lifted under Rule 5-3.
If the player fails to comply with all or any part of this procedure, or if he lifts the ball without having reason to believe that it has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.
If it is determined that the ball has become unfit for play during play of the hole being played, the player may substitute another ball, placing it on the spot where the original ball lay. Otherwise, the original ball must be replaced. If a player substitutes a ball when not permitted and makes a stroke at the wrongly substituted ball, he incurs the general penalty for a breach of Rule 5-3, but there is no additional penalty under this Rule or Rule 15-2.
If a ball breaks into pieces as a result of a stroke, the stroke is canceled and the player must play a ball, without penalty, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played (see Rule 20-5).
*Penalty For Breach Of Rule 5-3:
Note 1: If the opponent, marker or fellow-competitor wishes to dispute a claim of unfitness, he must do so before the player plays another ball.
Note 2: If the original lie of a ball to be placed or replaced has been altered, see Rule 20-3b.