so he still gets penalized even though playing partner was certain he saw it go in water?heres the problem.why do I get penalized because playing partner claims he saw it go in water?if partner declares that he saw it go in water and you cant find it till after you hit your drop then I don't feel you should be penalized.
There's a lot that goes into the term "virtual certainty," as the rules experts here will tell you. For example, what's the geography of the water hazard? Would it be possible for a ball flying on that path to exit the front of the hazard and end up on the course? What surrounds the hazard? 6-foot high brush? Tall cattails? Or just closely mown grass? What was the trajectory of the ball when it hit the water? High and soft? Low and screaming? What were the conditions that were present at the time? Was the fellow-competition looking into the sun? Was it dark?
As I understand it, if there are any possible mitigating factors, then you do not have virtual certainty. Remember, a ball known to be in the hazard or virtual certainty that it's in the hazard means after considering all applicable factors, there is no other place the ball could be. For example, just seeing a splash is not enough if the far bank is low enough that a ball could hop out and the grass thick enough you might not see it.
Given that the player did not see the ball and there likely were a number of factors that could have led to the ball being out of the hazard, he could and should have played a provisional from the original spot. Upon not finding his original within 5 minutes, his ball would be lost and he could just play the provisional. Or of course if he found the original, he would just continue play and abandon the provisional.