NZ Golf Inc.'s Phil Aickin gives his views on issues surrounding the rules.
The celebration of Seve
Ballesteros after making a birdie putt on the 18th green at St.Andrews in 1984 to win the Open Championship, or the charge and eventual win for Jack Nicklaus at the 1986 Masters, and of course the special win for our own Michael Campbell at the 2005 United States Open. Our modern-day coverage with high definition, drones and well placed cameras brings the drama right in to our lounge and I for one watch nearly every minute. We experience the drama and emotion of the winner and what better example in Sergio Garcia when he won his green jacket at the Masters this year in what was his 74th major championship. But occasionally some major championships have been remembered because of a high-profile rules incident that occurred, rather than the golf that was played and following the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, it is fair to say that perhaps another has been added to the list.
Here's a reminder of some of the most controversial.
1958 US Masters. Arnold Palmer was first denied relief from an embedded ball on the 12th hole in the final round, recording a double bogey five. But he played a second ball, made par and found out two holes later that the par counted. Tension remained for years between he and playing partner Ken Venturi.
1968 US Masters, won by Bob Goalby when Roberto de Vicenzo famously signed for a wrong score on the 17th hole. He made birdie but signed for a par four. The mistake cost the Argentinian a playoff the next day and handed Goalby his only Major title.
2010 US PGA at Whistling Straits. Playing the 72nd hole Dustin Johnson had a one stroke lead, but video evidence showed that in playing his second shot he grounded his club in a bunker, eventually resulting in a twostroke penalty and a win to Martin Kaymer.
2016 US Open. Whilst Dustin Johnson went on to win his victory was over shadowed by a penalty he received on the 5th green for the fractional movement of his golf ball when preparing to putt. What compounded the situation was the way in which it was handled creating a storm of media reaction.
2017 ANA Inspirational. Still fresh in our minds is the four-stroke penalty handed to Lexi Thompson in the final round of the year's first major championship. In the third round, video evidence revealed that Thompson re-placed her ball on the 17th green in a different position, therefore playing from a wrong place. A change to the Rules of Golf saved her from what would have been a disqualification, but nearly 24 hours later she was still assessed a four-stroke penalty that she was unable to recover from. So Yeon Ryu went on to beat Thompson in a playoff.
Now we can add the 2017 Open Championship due to the 13th hole in the final round when Jordan Spieth took an age to identify his dropping position after he declared his ball unplayable. The hole took nearly 30 minutes to play and one must admire his playing partner, Matt Kuchar, for the patience he displayed.
Spieth started the round with a three-stroke lead over Kuchar, but nervous play saw that evaporate and standing on the 13th tee he was tied for the lead. His drive went sharp right and buried in a sand dune well to the right of the fairway in a position that was unplayable. It is never a nice option to return to the tee for the stroke and distance penalty and dropping within two club lengths would not guarantee him a lie that he could recover from. That left one option, which was to keep that point and the hole in line and go back as far as he liked. Fortunately for Spieth, the driving range was in play and his extended line passed through equipment trucks which were parked in a position that would have been considered well out of play. But not with the angle that Spieth was working with and it took 20 minutes, for officials, including Chief Referee John Paramor, to determine where he could drop which would enable him to take temporary immovable obstruction relief out on to the driving range. From there he would be well over 220 metres from the hole playing his third shot and when he holed a lengthy par putt he only dropped one stroke and for the first time Kuchar had the lead.
History will show that Spieth played the last five holes in five under par, one of the most dramatic finishes to any major, but for the immediate future this phenomenal run will be overshadowed by the events that unfolded on the 13th hole. Spieth handled it well and it is a good indication of a player understanding the rules enough to help him take the best option possible.
Bring on more Seve and Sergio moments!!!
Jordan Spieth with Rules Officials during the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.