The PGA Tour rules staff apparently forgot about rules decision 18-4 having to do with “sophisticated technology” meaning HDTV, zoom lenses and slow-motion technology when it came to assessing Justin Rose a two-stroke penalty at The Players Championship on Saturday.
After Rose had a question regarding his golf ball on the 18th hole, he could have called in a rules official, but he elected not to do that because both he and Sergio Garcia determined that it was the TPC Sawgrass turf that moved, not the ball.
After the round, but before Rose signed his scorecard, rule officials headed to the television trucks—which they have habitually done when there is a rules question, in the event that the answer is visible on video.
Zooming in a bunch of times, someone determined the ball moved slightly. But that movement was not visible with the naked eye to Justin Rose at the time.
What did it look like to Rose?
“It was a very, incredibly spongy, thatchy, bit of fairway and the whole sort of surface underneath my wedge gave way,” Rose said later after being advised he was being assessed a two-stroke penalty. “That was a bitter pill to swallow at the end of a battling day.”
So did the ball move, or did the entire surface move, making it look like the ball moved? Or did the surface move, causing the ball to move? No one on site could determine that without the help of technology.
The HDTV and zoom lenses had an answer, but after 18-4, they are no longer supposed to be used to asses penalties that cannot be seen by a person on site using no magnification. That’s where decision 18-4 is supposed to take over, but it didn’t at the time.
Rose felt that the ball alone did not move. “The whole area trampolined,” he added.
In January, it was determined that any ruling made regarding ball movement that could only be seen or proven by use of sophisticated technology and not visible by the naked eye can no longer be made. Some felt it was because of Tiger Woods and the “wood chips-gate” ruling last fall, but the PGA Tour said it had been lobbying for this rule change for some time.
Sometime Saturday evening, rules officials, in conversation with each other, realized that the only reason they assessed the penalty to Rose was because of the HDTV and the zooming. They all realized they had not applied rule 18-4. They discussed it with officials from the USGA and the R&A, and the consensus was they had not applied 18-4 and would rescind the two-stroke penalty prior to Justin Rose teeing off Sunday morning.
The decision was made at about 10 a.m. ET, and officials called Rose into the office at about 11 a.m. to inform him. It was too late to redo the tee times, and so Rose went off as though he had posted 73 instead of 71.
Because the ruling could only be made against Rose by using extraordinary efforts with high-level technology, it was not made at all in accordance with decision 18-4 in the rules of golf.
Kathy Bissell is a golf writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.