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..
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!