I am not defending the R&A's action prior to 2010 but why cannot people understand that the R&A have absolute discretion to manage the rules in their own territories. As I have said before, winter tees are an example. They and the USGA only write and publish them jointly.
The R&A assumes responsibility for the administration of the Rules of Golf with the consent of 143 organisations from the amateur and professional game, and on behalf of over 30 million golfers in 128 countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
For the USA and Mexico, the USGA is the governing body, an organisation with whom The R&A has jointly issued the Rules of Golf since 1952.
However, to the point about playing the ball as it lies. How do preferred lies, lift clean and place, embedded ball though the green and winter fairway mats fit in to the scheme of things?
I can imagine a situation during the winter, when the divot holes are not healing, where one or more fairways are so badly pockmarked, that permission was given to courses to take relief from divot holes on those fairways on similar grounds.
Adverse conditions, including the poor condition of the course or the existence of mud, are sometimes so general, particularly during winter months, that the Committee may decide to grant relief by temporary Local Rule either to protect the course or to promote fair and pleasant play.