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Sunday
May012011

Tangled Webb During Sudden Death Playoff?

Golfweek's roundup of Sunday's Zurich Classic finale explains what happened with Webb Simpson's violation at the 15th hole, costing him a stroke that ultimately forced a playoff loss to Bubba Watson.

Simpson made bogey on the 15th hole after calling a one-stroke penalty on himself when his ball oscillated on the green. He was leading by one stroke at the time.

“You get greens like this that are burned out, balls are going to move all over the place,” he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Simpson made birdie on the first playoff hole, after putting his second shot on the par-5 finishing hole over the green. On the second extra hole, he couldn’t get up-and-down out of a greenside bunker and settled for par.

Afterward, however, the talk focused on the ruling on 15 green.

“You have to call it on yourself in that situation,” he said. “But it stinks that the tournament might have been decided by a rule that’s borderline a good rule. I’m a little disappointed, but I’ll learn from it and hopefully have another chance next week.”

But it's what went on at #18 that caught the eye of several readers here and elsewhere online. Reader BenSeattle wrote:

When (on the first hole of the playoff) Simpson was took a drop from the greenside sprinkler and was allowed to PLACE his ball by hand after the first two rolled down the slope, didn't his first "place" come to rest? I thought it did when he took his hand away but just a second later he picked it up and tried once more. Again, it seemed to turn maybe a half revolution and settle but Simpson quickly picked it up again and then finally placed it in a spot to his liking.

Am I being a stickler or merely uninformed if I should maintain that Simpson picked up a ball that had legally "come to rest," was therefore IN PLAY and therefore Webb should have been penallized for THAT infraction as well?

Reader Red concurred:

After Simpson released his fingers from the ball when placing the first time, it appeared to be at rest. When he lifted it, I immediately thought, "Uh oh." I had a strong feeling that a couple of tour officials became instantly sick to their stomachs But when nothing came of it, I mentally let it go and assumed it MUST have moved..

According to the Rule-20...

d. Ball Fails To Come To Rest on Spot

If a ball when placed fails to come to rest on the spot on which it was placed, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced. If it still fails to come to rest on that spot:

(i) except in a hazard, it must be placed at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest that is not nearer the hole and not in a hazard;
  (ii) in a hazard, it must be placed in the hazard at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest that is not nearer the hole.

If a ball when placed comes to rest on the spot on which it is placed, and it subsequently moves, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, unless the provisions of any other Rule apply.

The tape would seem to indicate the ball was at rest and perhaps because of nerves or because he thought it was moving, Simpson grabbed it again and tried to place it.  I'll leave it to you rules gurus to hash this one out. It doesn't impact the event either way, but it would be good to know!

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Reader Comments (18)

I think the rules official was standing over Simpson telling him to try again each time the ball would not come to rest. I notice that when a good drop is made the official declares "the ball is in play". Simply asking the rules official if he was giving the verbal OK to Simpson to try again or declaring "the ball is in play" would answer the question.

Fortunately the point is moot in this case....
05.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephenP
I was watching and thinking it looked like he was touching the ball way too fast before an official could be telling him whether to replace the ball or to be declaring it in play. It seems like he was having a spasm and Faldo's commentary even seemed to suggest he was perplexed by what was going on.
05.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterOB
I made one of your dispatches! I'm like, a valued source now!

This is an oft-committed, seldom-enforced type of violation. When the player is allowed to place, he obviously tries to create as much of a cupcake lie as possible. with the ball in hand, a certain carte' blanche sensation takes over, the mind departing from the brain pan momentarily. It's easy for even experienced players go around the bend on this. They frequently will jostle the ball when they're placing, to make it seat just right. When they let go and notice the lie could be even better, the feeling that the episode is still in progress prevails. They reflexively lift it without necessarily checking to see if the ball is at rest. I've seen it happen many times and have done it myself. The lone time I actually remember, my buddies refused to be hard-azzes and refused to let me charge myself the penalty stroke.

I feel, vaguely, that a breach occurred, and that because it was so small, they just let it go. It's an outrageous claim, but after so many of these things surfacing lately, the tour is truly at risk of having fans saying "golf is an ass" en masse. I mean, to a point where it might might more seriously impact support. They just can't afford another one of these incidents and thus are brushing it off. But I'd love to sit next to the monitor with the chief rules official and have him defend the non-call.
05.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRed
The rules official was hovering over him the whole time, right? I too thought it was a little odd but the official clearly didn't take issue with anything that happened.
05.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
Upon further review, the ruling on the field stands. That ball moved from its original position every time he placed it (except the last time).
05.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
There was no breach here. The player was acting under the close supervision of a Rules Official. They were communicating well, unfortunately we could not hear the exchanges. Had the player proceeded incorrectly he would have been penalised by the RO.

In this situation it is a question of fact whether or not the ball when placed remained at rest. On a slope the ball is supported by the blades of grass taking the weight of the ball. They may start to bend and the ball move imperceptibly, then the blades weaken more and the ball visibly moves. An experienced official will wait a few seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest before declaring the ball to be in play (there is no set time period in the Rules - it depends on the actual circumstances). This was the case here and it was clear that the final place resulted in a stationary ball and the Official would have then told the player that his ball was in play. There would only have been a breach if the player had touched the ball after the Official had told him that the ball was in play.
05.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterNigel
Once again a perfect explanation by Nigel-you saved me a lot of words there!!
05.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterchico
I see no violation at all. You get 10 seconds to see if a ball left hanging on the lip wants to drop in the hole or not....WTF should we expect the laws of nature and physics to change because we get to have our hand on the ball? Having a rules official over your shoulder also makes me think everything was/is 'kosher'.

My question is...since I didn't see the telecast...why was he placing the ball in the first place...why no drop?
05.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
I watched the tape a half dozen times and I have monitored that particular situation more times than I could count in 34 years as an official. I know the Rule and the " drill " . I saw nothing that led me to believe that the ball " in play " had been moved. Besides, one of the games best officials, Steve Carman, was the official on scene.. We all know that sometimes a slight movement does not always show up on tape because of the camera angle. You had to be there, as Steve was, to detect a miniscule movement. That ball was in play when Steve said it was play. End of story.
05.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterpete blaisdell
@ johnnnycz - It was a severe slope behind the green...He attempted to drop twice, and then was allowed to place the ball.

I felt bad for Simpson on 15...Crusty greens and gusty winds - It wasn't his fault the ball moved. In hind sight I'm sure he wishes he had marked the ball instead of walking up to it and attempting tapping it in.....Anyways, he did the right thing by calling the penalty on himself. He gained a lot of fans and respect yesterday.
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSir Hack-a-Lot
NO PENALTY WAS COMMITTED HERE. END OF STORY. NEXT...
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRM
Too bad he lost in the end.
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGolfFan
About Webb on 15...I wish they would rewrite that rule, so that when the ball is on the green, a penalty occurs only if the ball moves because it is touched by the club, not simply by grounding the putter. It only seems to occur when there are high winds or when the ball is on a slope. It was particularly bad 3 years ago at The Open. I'm not sure if grounding the club on today's greens ever causes the ball to move, and certainly does not gain an advantage.
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRM
Recently in Tampa Webb Simpson put on a slow play display that infuriated a lot of people around these parts. I didn't really see any evidence of that yesterday. By all appearances Webb is a likable and intelligent person...possibly someone discussed the issue with him? And possibly that led him to walk up to tap in without taking the time to mark? I noticed that for the rest of the round he didn't ground his putter on the tap ins.

I bet once he reflects on what happened he will never ever hit another putt without marking and replacing it first.

http://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2011/3/20/17-was-a-5-iron-i-think-we-had-220-hole.html
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
There was no violation.

Webb dropped twice and was placing on the spot where the ball first touched a part of the course on the second drop. The procedure is to place a ball on that spot as per Rule 20-2c (see the last paragraph prior to Note 1). If it moves, you try to place it on that spot
again. If after trying to place it on that spot a few times it becomes apparent that the ball will not stay on that spot, then you
find the nearest spot not nearer the hole (or in a hazard) where it will come to rest and place it there. This second bit is what's
covered by the part of the Rule Geoff quoted above, which is Rule 20-3d.

When Webb placed the ball the first time under 20-2c and it moved, it doesn't matter whether it came to rest because the ball had moved from the spot where he had to place it. He needed to try and place it on THAT spot again. Later it looks like they determined that they could not get the ball to stay on that spot and that's when he started placing it in different places as per 20-3d."
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewB
Now they are talking about changing Rule 18-2b too!

http://sports.yahoo.com/golf/pga/news?slug=ap-rulechange

I think the ball just hadn't come to rest yet. Like a ball that appears to come to rest on the edge of the cup and then drops in a while later. I think Simpson's ball was sitting on the edge of a little ridge and while not perceptible to us, or him, was still moving. Simply marking and placing, and then not soling the putter (all things experienced players do), would have prevented the issue from arising.
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
Oscillation is not movement from point A to point B, it's movement starting and ending at Point A. A ball that oscillates has not moved.
05.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterF. X. Flinn
If you watch closely, on the first placement, the ball moved after he let go of it, but before he took his hand away. So his hand is shielding the camera's view of the movement.
05.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMikeZ

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