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« Hollow Golf: Sluggish Pace, Prevent-Birdie Setup And More Streaming Issues | Main | 2017 PGA Third Round This And That »

Watch Rickie Leave His Ball Down As A Backstop

It's great to hear from readers who reported Jim Nantz joining those critical of backstopping chip shots by not marking a ball before a playing partner plays. His "inexplicable" comment has been preceded on past telecasts by CBS colleagues Peter Kostis, Ian Baker-Finch and Dottie Pepper criticizing the fundamentally strange choice by pro golfers to leave their ball down to slow down a wayward competitor's shot.

As we have learned from defenders of this behavior, players are merely wanting to play as fast as possible. The practice does not take place on weekends of majors or in match play, and rarely in the televised weekend windows. But as it has become more accepted on the PGA Tour, the act has become so normalized that it seeped into weekends and now majors. (Some players do not partake and behind the scenes are branded bad apples because they don't play "the game the right way" or other similar coded nonsense.)

Thanks to Michael Power for this particularly bold example from Rickie Fowler during round three at the 2017 PGA. Since Saturday was a dreadful 5.5 hour round where speed of play was not going to be appreciably improved by taking another 10 seconds to mark a ball before the next shot was played toward the hole, it's tough to write this off as a pace effort. 

No, today's players simply like to help their buddies in hopes of receiving similar support for their own wayward chip shots. Mercifully, the Golf Gods are always watching and taking notes.

Still, this one is fascinating to watch because you can see the shot stop rolling and watch Fowler as he determines it's of the helping-not-hurting variety, and turns to watch his playing partner knowing it's a backstopping situation.

Here's the link should the embedded video does not play:

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Reader Comments (25)

If a ball is not on a players line, then there is zero reason to mark it, other than to slow down this ridiculous game to a f'ing snail match of egos! How about, NO touching the ball between the teeing area and the hole, unless you are taking a drop, or your ball is on another players line? But of course, 2.5 hour golf rounds aren't slow enough to get enough commercials in. It is a complete waste of time watching these "professionals" continue to destroy a sport that was never meant to be played like this! Sad!
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFore
I heard Nantz's comment and immediately tweeted that he was calling people cheaters. I am totally fine with this practice. It is not and never ever will be cheating or unethical to NOT touch the ball while it is in play (maybe a rules issue if you deny a request, but without a request, this should NEVER be an issue; come to think of it, what is the ruling if somebody asks you to mark your ball and you don't?).

The ball is supposed to be left alone! How have we gotten so far away from the spirit of the rules that playing the ball down is now somehow a bad thing? What a joke.
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterShivas
If they were actually "playing partners" it would be one thing but they're not, they're "fellow competitors" so it's a little weird
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterThinking Out Loud
This is something about nothing, another meaningless nit-pick because golf is so desperate to save itself from becoming irrelevant on TV it feels a need to boost interest any way it can by trying to make an issue out of a non-issue.

Here are predicted TV ratings for the PGA Ch. this weekend:

"In the post-Tiger Woods era, golf’s best bet for big ratings are Jordan Spieth and, to a lesser extent, Phil Mickelson. Heading into the weekend at the PGA Championship, Spieth is tied for 46th and 11 shots off the lead and Mickelson is already done. Jason Day is in contention, but his presence is unlikely to move the needle in any real way. Last year’s final round posted a 3.4 rating, tying the worst mark since at least 1981. Barring a Spieth surge, look for even lower numbers this time around. Predictions: 2.2 and 3.2."

source: Awful Announcing website
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
The fact that "thought leaders" (or at least people with microphones) in golf are questioning why the ball should stay untouched unless its in somebody's way and they ask for it to be marked is a sad commentary on the state of professional golf.
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterShivas
The practice is just as bad on the 6th hole or the 71st hole, but if this continues, it might determine the outcome of a championship. It might happen on Sunday

It will be another embarrassing situation for golf. Like the Dustin Johnson incident, like the Anna Nordqvist incident, like the Lexi incident.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P Burdell
Thank you, Mr. Peterson. Not much wiggle room there, especially concerning the spirit of the game.

Also, marking the ball takes NO additional time, given that every pro always marks and lifts his ball to check its condition at some point prior to putting.
08.12.2017 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Another thank you to Carl P. One has to wonder how this practice of leaving the ball as a backstop manages to survive in the face of this rule and decision?
08.12.2017 | Unregistered Commentermeefer
If they can hit a golf ball with another golf ball, why not just hit it into the much larger hole?
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterScott
Would you turn down a premium-free insurance policy, Scott?
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson
What if this were the 72nd hole and RF had a one shot lead? Would he do it the same there? Doubtful.
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDale
To digress to the game at large rather than major tourney golf, marking routinely is the silliest practice. If asked, sure, happily. If it would be courteous to ask, certainly do so and act accordingly. Otherwise, leave the ball alone and prepare for your next stroke. Please.
08.12.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
Well, once again, the USGA has it wrong in their decisions. No players should ever be required to touch his golf ball unless it interferes with another player's play and that other player requests him to do so. Although the premise that players who collide to break a rule are both in violation is a good one, I'd hate to be the guy playing with me when I tell the referee "Don't you dare touch my golf ball. I'd rather be DQ'd than touch my golf ball unless it hinder's another player's play. I play the ball as it lies." Under this decision, I basically have the power to get another player who has done nothing wrong at all DQ'd. How does THAT make any sense? I can't wait until a guy who is 16 over par gets a guy who is leading at 9 under par DQ'd in a one spotter US Am qualifier because he knows his buddy is in the house at 8 under.

Nice rule: one guy gets DQd for playing then ball as it lies. The other gets DQd for nothing at all.
08.13.2017 | Unregistered CommenterShivas
This is a very common practice in tournament golf and no Rules breach occurred. There was no request from Rickie's fellow competitor to not mark the ball. Rickie glanced to his fellow competitor and his actions basically is the same as saying "Is that ok there?" and if the guy said "that's fine" then there is no Rules breach. There was no request and no agreement to assist.

In golf we tend to route for our fellow competitors until it comes down to a one-on-one situation.
08.13.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRulesNerd
Talking about marking and pace of play, every pro marks if he is on his playing partners "through line." When did that start? Most wear soft spikes now. Drives me crazy. Putt out and move on.
08.13.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBob
For everyone saying that you shouldn't touch your ball - I would agree with you if the player had no plans to mark the ball on the green. But a few seconds later he is going to mark the ball anyway to have it cleaned and (often) to line up the Shivas cheater line.
08.13.2017 | Unregistered CommenterWayner
This could get ugly if this happened to players that dont like each other. We should all just email all Kerry Haigh till they do something about this. All of us PGA guys can get his email address easy, his phone number might even be listed.

3-4/1 Competitor Not Given Opportunity to Lift Ball Assisting Fellow-Competitor

Q.In stroke play, A's ball lies near the hole in a position to assist B, whose ball lies off the putting green. A states his intention to lift his ball under Rule 22-1. B mistakenly believes that A does not have the right to lift his ball and plays before A has an opportunity to lift his ball. What is the ruling?

A.B is disqualified under Rule 3-4 as he intentionally denied A's right to lift his ball. It is irrelevant that B did so in ignorance of the Rules.
08.13.2017 | Unregistered Commentermark
Ding ding ding, Wayner. Exactly. Once again I'm amazed at how many commenters here read way more into what is initially being talked about. There is simply no denying what is going on with the non-marking on pitches and chips around the green, these guys may as well be winking at eachother. And it's not being done to speed up play. If it was match play, in the Ryder Cup, every one of these questionable non-markings would be marked, guaranteed. And no, we don't have to start running up to mark the ball when a playing partner has a 75 yard or 150 yard shot, no one is saying that so don't elevate this discussion to that level. This isn't the member-guest, it's professional golf. No one is telling you that you have to do it on the weekend with your boys.
08.13.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
So...did Thomas's chipped ball hit Fowlers???What's the fuss about then?
08.13.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarmooskapaul
''another meaningless nit-pic''

A perfect description- Those griping need to think about joining PETA.

''So...did Thomas's chipped ball hit Fowlers???What's the fuss about then?''

And my question is, out of 100 ''backstop balls''- how many have been hit, and of those how many actually changed the out come of the hole's score, by a major deflection/''save''?

What a peeing contest over nothing.

A band I never cared for had a few good songs, including ''Too Much Time O My Hands'' advice for those who gripe about the non event of the ''backstopped balls'', surely a major footnote in viewing golf rules in 100 years.

Really. Seriously. No, I mean it. The outcome of a skulled chip being deflected to where it stays in makeable one putt range happens on June 36, 2043, and the one page addendum added to rule books in 2022, at a cost of ''a bunch'' finally pays off with a squarely punched ''backstopper'', as the ball left on the green will become know as.

Sadly the recipient of the saved skulled ball lost a stroke and was DQed , though he made the putt-- the delayed ruling after the round cost him a 2 stroke penalty, and the LEXI LAW upheld because all the totally stupid, no common sense rules were eliminated in the new rule book- add after a review it was clear that too much common sense could NOT be ''The Rules of Golf'' thus the Lexi Law was added back.

Oh, the humanity.

08.13.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Ol' Harv-- please struggle thru my previous post. Much ado about nothing, sir.

Cops don't give cops tickets. Professional courtesy.

08.13.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
If one ball helps another player's ball it's called rub of the green, it's part of the game, it all evens out so MOVE ON! But don't make me touch my ball when I don't want to unless it's in somebody else's way and THEY ask for me to mark it. What's so hard about this to understand?
08.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterShivas
Mark the ball. Protect the field.

The rule about balls being in a position to assist is pretty clear, and what you have skirts the 1-3/agreement to waive rules thing, but because the agreement isn't quite explicit enough… they get by.

Mark the ball.
08.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Good to see shivas posting here and not on gca. Please stay on this site with your bs.
08.14.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck

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