And as the saying goes, they are two totally different animals. One of the things I enjoy most about sports is observing how players react under pressure. So, to understand it better, I’ve decided to put myself under the gun more often. My first attempt, the SF City last year, was aborted when I cut my hand (changing a grip, of all things) three days before qualifying. Seven stitches and a mile of gauze put an end to that attempt—my hand looked like a catcher’s mitt!
The short story is I played pretty solid golf, shot 78, and qualified for match play as the 19th seed. I then got drilled in the first round 4 & 3. I was two over at that point so, no complaints.
But to the point of this blog, I ended up playing rules official on a couple of occasions in both rounds. In qualifying, the starter gave us directions about pace of play and rule 3-3, then said, “If you have any questions, just ask Rich.” Gee, thanks…
On the second hole, a player plugged his third shot in the sod face of a bunker, and called me over from 50 yards away to ask what to do. Pretty routine: Drop the ball as close as possible to the spot (Rule 25-2), and after it rolls twice into the bunker, place it as near as possible to the spot where it struck the course the second time (Rule 20-2c).
On that same hole, birdie putt rolled about two feet by. I went up to it, and without marking it, took my stance, looked at the ball, then the hole. When I looked back at the ball, it wasn’t where I thought it should be. I asked my fellow competitors if it had moved. They said yes, but I hadn’t addressed it yet. Then I made a very fundamental error, which I’ve just now realized. They told me to replace it. I was shook up and not thinking clearly, so I did so. I now realize that the ball should have been played from where it came to rest, and by moving it back I played from a wrong place and should have been assessed a two stroke penalty. Therefore, I signed an incorrect scorecard and should have been disqualified.
However… Rule 34-1b says that a penalty cannot be imposed after the competition has closed if the player was unaware that he had incurred a penalty. And in a mixed event like the City, the stroke play competition is closed once match play begins.
After hitting a pretty good tee shot on the 15th, a short downhill par three, as I walked off the tee toward my bag, I heard fragment of a sentence that ended up with “nine iron” and sounded like a question. Did someone just ask me what I hit? That of course would have been a violation of rule 8-1b. I don’t know if I handled this correctly, but here’s what I did: I didn’t want to find out. I kept walking. All I know is I heard something that might have been a question but also might have been someone thinking out loud. I didn’t want to break my own focus, so I just moved away without acknowledging it.
Two matches were played concurrently in each foursome. In the other match one of the players, who was three up at the time, told me his opponent had been marking his ball inconsistently. He was usually marking it a couple of inches behind the ball, sometimes closer, but always replacing it several inches in front of the mark, meaning that when he marked it properly, he was replacing it closer to the hole. He told me about this on the twelfth hole, and sure enough his opponent did exactly that on the thirteenth. In match play a player may choose to ignore a violation by his opponent, or me may call it in a timely manner, which he did on the fourteenth green. Calling your opponent on a violation can be an uncomfortable situation, but part of match play.
I ran into his opponent in the clubhouse later. He explained that he marked the ball that way because a friend of his had moved his ball while marking it in a tournament, and had incurred a penalty. I told him that was wrong, and there are rules and decisions to read, though I couldn’t cite the numbers at the time. Rule 20-1 says if the ball or marker is accidently moved in the act of marking its position, it must be replaced and there is no penalty. Decision 20-1/15 defines what is directly attributable to the act of marking the ball. Decision 20-1/20 says a player who marks two inches behind the ball cannot be considered to have marked the position accurately, and incurs a one-stroke penalty each time he does it. In addition, if he doesn't play from the correct spot, it becomes a two stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place, which is what I should have incurred in the qualifying round.
Interestingly, that same weekend, David Frost had a similar situation: He dropped his ball on the coin, moving it. But since Frost was not in the act of marking or replacing, he was penalized a stroke and had to replace the marker in its original spot. Barry Rhodes explains it quite well here: