May - 2017
With the plethora of announcements from the USGA and R&A on impending rules changes and immediate new Decisions, our hypothetical on dropping balls is going to have to wait yet again.
I'm assuming you're reading this column because you are what I would term a golf aficionado so I'm also therefore going to assume that you watched what was once the Dinah Shore LPGA major in the desert last month and you heard about what happened to Lexi Thompson when she improperly, as it turned out, placed her ball on the putting green in the wrong place. If you didn't know what happened to her, then keep reading. If you did know what happened to her, then you'd be surprised to understand what ensued as a result of her loss in a tournament that she should have won if not for a viewer calling into the Golf Channel and how this new Decision would have impacted other infamous decisions rendered as a result of a video review by the Tournament's Rules Committee. Here goes:
The USGA and R&A announced a new rule on April 25th that will limit the use of video review. New decision 34-3/10 is effective immediately -- although there are plenty of players who probably wish it could be implemented retroactively. Here's a look back at seven famous recent rules controversies -- and how the new rule would have affected them.
1. Lexi Thompson, 2017 ANA Inspiration
If it happened now: Oddly enough, the USGA didn't provide a definitive answer to this. The rule still allows for call-ins and video reviews, and in this case, Thompson clearly put her ball back in the wrong spot. But the new rule says if players use "reasonable judgment," when determining the location of replacing their ball or taking a drop, then they're in the clear. Thompson claims there was no intent in her mistake so it seems like she'd be given a pass, but this is murky. The new rule also doesn't solve the problem that she was essentially penalized twice for the same violation because she signed an incorrect scorecard.
RELATED: More on golf's newest rule
T2. Anna Nordqvist, 2016 U.S. Women's Open
If it happened now: Using the new clause, "when video reveals evidence that could not reasonably be seen with the 'naked eye,'" this wouldn't have been a penalty. In fact, this seems to be the very example the USGA used in its Tuesday press release: An example includes a player who unknowingly touches a few grains of sand in taking a backswing with a club in a bunker when making a stroke. Thus, it would have been ruled that Nordqvist gained no advantage from her mistake, and it may have kept USGA president Diana Murphy from making that name gaffe at the trophy ceremony.3. Tiger Woods, 2013 Masters
What happened then: Tied for the lead late on Friday, Woods' third shot on the par-5 15th caromed off the flagstick and wound up in the water. He took a drop and got up and down for bogey. Or so everyone thought. Pro golfer David Eger, who was watching on TV, informed rules officials that Woods dropped in a different spot so it could be corrected before he left the course, but originally, no penalty was deemed necessary. Following his round, though, Woods incriminated himself during a TV interview in which he said he dropped a couple yards farther back on purpose. After much discussion and debate, two shots were added to Woods' score and he was lucky to not get disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard (at the time, that called for a DQ instead of a two-shot penalty). The triple bogey proved costly as he lost by four shots.
If it happened now: There wouldn't be any controversy over Woods being allowed to continue playing in the tournament, but the penalty still would stand. Woods blatantly saying he dropped two yards back instead of at the same spot would keep him from using the "reasonable judgment" claim. Had he not done that interview, though, it's possible there would have been no penalty -- and he might have even picked up that elusive 15th major.
4. Tiger Woods, 2013 Players
If it happened now: We'd get the same result, with probably the same amount of questioning. If the video evidence wasn't consulted then, it certainly wouldn't be used today. As the PGA Tour said then in a statement, "Without definitive evidence, the point where Woods' ball last crossed the lateral water hazard is determined through best judgment by Woods and his fellow competitor."
5. Tiger Woods, 2013 BMW Championship
If it happened now: Woods would have avoided a penalty under the "naked eye" clause since he felt the ball didn't move, but merely oscillated. He probably wouldn't have avoided Chamblee -- and others -- challenging his integrity. Again, it was a rough year for these types of incidents.
6. Dustin Johnson, 2010 PGA Championship
If it happened now: Johnson's "I didn't realize it was a bunker" plead still wouldn't hold up. Unlike Nordqvist's situation at the 2016 U.S. Women's Open, Johnson clearly grounded his club before hitting his second shot because he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. And although Whistling Straits has countless bunkers -- many of which had been trampled down by fans -- not knowing a rule or local rule can't save you.
7. Brian Davis, 2010 RBC Heritage
If it happened now: Had Davis not called the violation on himself, like with Nordqvist's situation, the video evidence wouldn't have been enough to give him a penalty. But the veteran thought he saw "movement out of the corner of my eye" and "I could not have lived with myself had I not [called the penalty]," Davis said at the time. "That will come back to him spades, tenfold," PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White said. If it has, it hasn't on the golf course. Davis is still in search of that first victory.