Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Players Mark With Tees, and Why Australian Officials Should Know This

If you haven't heard, there was another rules dispute down in Australia this weekend. It involved some popular names on the LPGA, and, to be quite frank, was really idiotic by the Golf Australia officials.

I'll set up the situation for you. Karrie Webb marked her ball with a golf tee during her Saturday round, and after, was accused of cheating by officials. That is, well, very wrong.

You see, professional golfers don't normally use a tee to mark their balls when you're watching it on television, but when they have lengthy putts of 40 or 50 feet (or longer), they'll sometimes put a tee behind the mark so they can see where the ball is when they go to read the putt from the other side of the hole. It makes sense, obviously. Sometimes you can't see a marker when you're that far away, or if there is undulation or what not to harbor your view.

Australian officials didn't really get this, and it took playing partner Christina Kim to help Webb out of that mess.

''I think it was really badly handled, actually,'' Webb said. ''They didn't check at first. They told me I'd breached a rule but they couldn't tell me which rule I'd breached. Then, after I came in and finished my playing partner's scorecard, they asked me why I do it. That's why it was handled poorly. I was trying to get what ruling I could have breached. They couldn't tell me what ruling because it wasn't in the decisions book and it wasn't in the Rules of Golf.

''They said they called the R&A [The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews], and then I asked [playing partner] Christina Kim how many people on the LPGA put a tee behind the ball, and she said: 'About 70 per cent.' That was the end the issue. I don't know why Christina Kim's word was taken more than mine.''

So, yes, everyone, tees are used by pros. No, it isn't because they don't have a coin in their pockets (or on their hat, if you're talking about the LPGA) like your weekend hacker, it's because they are using it as a helpful tool to help them score the best possible.

The fact that nobody Down Under got that is rather embarrassing.

Getty Images


Giovanni Bobbio said...

The note to rule 20-1 says: "The position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball."

The usage of "should" rather than "shall" probably gives enough leeway to use a tee instead, but it's unsurprising that this be (temporarily) challenged by an official in a place where everyone follows the normal procedure.

It is more surprising (but not really) that these players don't know how they are supposed to mark the ball in the first place.

I note that I've never seen a male pro mark the ball with a tee - regardless of how much "sense" it may make.

mbronson said...

Upon reading Decision 20-1/16 of the USGA Rules it is obvious that no Rule was broken.

20-1/16 Method Used to Mark Position of Ball
Q. The Note to Rule 20-1 provides that “the position of a ball to be lifted should be marked by placing a ball-marker, a small coin or other similar object immediately behind the ball.” Is a player penalized if he uses an object that is not similar to a ball-marker or small coin to mark the position of his ball?
A. No. The provision in the Note to Rule 20-1 is a recommendation of best practice, but there is no penalty for failing to act in accordance with the Note.
Examples of methods of marking the position of a ball that are not recommended, but are permissible, are as follows:
• placing the toe of a club at the side of, or behind, the ball;
• using a tee;
• using a loose impediment;
• scratching a line, provided the putting green is not tested (Rule 16-1d) and a line for putting is not indicated (Rule 8-2b). As this practice may cause damage to the putting green, it is discouraged.
However, under Rule 20-1 it is necessary to physically mark the position of the ball. Reference to an existing mark on the ground does not constitute marking the position of a ball. For example, it is not permissible to mark the position with reference to a blemish on the putting green.
When moving a ball or ball-marker to the side to prevent it from interfering with another player’s stance or stroke, the player may measure from the side of the ball or ball-marker. In order to accurately replace the ball on the spot from which it was lifted, the steps used to move the ball or ball-marker to the side should be reversed. (Revised)

Unless the LPGA operates by it's own set of Rules, the official who called this a violation should get some further education regarding the Rules as well as issue a public apology to Ms. Webb!

diane said...

"they'll sometimes put a tee behind the mark so they can see where the ball is when they go to read the putt from the other side of the hole."

The way I'm reading this, Karrie marked her ball the conventional way, with a coin or similar object, then placed a tee adjacent to the 'coin' so she could see its location when she was crouched down 40-50 feet away from the marker. I don't believe she used only a tee, did she?

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