After railing against the USGA’s regrettable handling of both the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open Championships earlier this summer, today I have to give it some credit.
On Thursday, the USGA (in conjunction with the R&A) announced a new local rule removing the penalty for “the accidental movement of a ball or a ball marker on the green.” All I can say is, “It’s about time.”
Credit where credit is due. Here’s the scoop from those who know it best:
Penalty To Be Waived for Accidental Ball Movement on Green
By Helen Ross
A new local rule announced Thursday by the USGA and R&A has removed the penalty for the accidental movement of a ball or a ball marker on the green.
The local rule covers “movement by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.” When that happens, the ball must be replaced and played from its previous position.
However, if the ball’s movement is deemed to have been caused by wind, water or other natural causes, the ball must be played as it lies.
Had this rule been in effect at the 2016 U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson would not have been penalized when his ball moved on Oakmont’s fifth green in the final round. He maintained he didn’t cause the ball to move but the USGA felt otherwise after looking at video, and he was eventually assessed a one-stroke penalty.
Johnson, however, played the final seven holes in limbo after being told on the 12th green that officials were reviewing the incident. In the end, the penalty didn’t matter since Johnson won his first major by three strokes.
“I think it’s a really good thing for golf,” Johnson told the Associated Press in a text message.
Thomas Pagel, who is the USGA’s senior director for the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status, said eliminating the penalty comes as a response to concerns about the difficulty of apply the rule. He told the AP that the revision had been discussed “for quite some time.
“The Dustin Johnson ruling was the last of many uncomfortable rulings we’ve had with balls or ball markers that moved on a putting green,” Pagel said. “We had identified a solution and language as the broader rules modernization. This motivated us to say it’s in the best interest of the game as opposed to waiting for the next set of revisions.”
The USGA and R&A have been working on a Rules Moderation project for the past five years.
“This change is a good example of the type of Rules Modernization changes we hope to implement after completing our fundamental review of all of the Rules,” Pagel said. “We are looking for ways to improve the Rules by making them easier to understand and apply.”
The new Local Rule goes into effect on Jan. 1.