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PGA Tour Players Not Marking Balls when In Position to Assist Another Player, #Backstopping

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I'm watching the Wells Fargo tourney. At one point, on the short par 4, a player was taking a drop out of the water and pitching/chipping back onto the green. A short pitch for him to the hole. One of his playing partners left his ball about 2-3 feet from the hole.

Even Gary McCord was asking why doesn't the guy mark his ball? Your are chipping up to the cup, but there is a ball about 2 feet away from the hole. I (like Gary McCord) was wondering why the player did not mark his ball. The term 'Protecting the field' came up. I really was wondering what was going on here.

If I'm 2 to 3 feet from the cup and someone is chipping to the cup, I would definitely mark my ball before they guy makes his chip.

Gary McCord and I were both completely amazed that the player did not mark his ball. I really was hoping that his shot would hit the ball next to the cup. I know this can happen on longer shots to the green, but this was just a little pitch/chip.

Question: If I'm the player pitching/chipping up to the cup and there is a ball next to the cup (in the way), can I ask him to mark his ball before I make my swing?

Sorry to be so vague about the players and the hole. If you were watching, you know what I'm referring to.

I'll watch it again :) and fill in some of the blanks.

Edited by CCC

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I didn't watch it, but from your description I can visualize the situation. If I was the guy chipping I would have TOLD the other golfer to mark his ball! It's been a long time since golfers played "stymies"!

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I could not believe what I was watching. The camera focused in on the player's face - who refused to mark his ball. And he had a grin on his face. What a 'Pro'.

8 minutes ago, Buckeyebowman said:

I didn't watch it, but from your description I can visualize the situation. If I was the guy chipping I would have TOLD the other golfer to mark his ball! It's been a long time since golfers played "stymies"!

Can you tell another golfer to mark his ball?

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11 minutes ago, CCC said:

I could not believe what I was watching. The camera focused in on the player's face - who refused to mark his ball. And he had a grin on his face. What a 'Pro'.

Can you tell another golfer to mark his ball?

From what they discussed in the rest of the hole, it sounds like He wasn't asked to mark his ball, he just didn't mark it.

Edited by freshmanUTA

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Without having seen it, I'm guessing you're slightly misinterpreting it - it happens all the time where the ball is in a position that could only help the chipper and they leave it be until after the chip.  This is what I suspect happened.  (Like I said though, I haven't seen it, so I could obviously be very wrong)

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Buckeyebowmen, It was not a 'stymie'.

The ball was not in the direct line of the shot. But, if he had missed right, he might have made contact with the unmarked ball and used it as a 'back stop'. But he missed left of the hole.
 

That is why the term 'Protecting the field' came up. And I agree.

The player who did not mark his ball, had plenty of time - to mark his ball and pick it up. He just stood and watched the whole time. 10 minutes?

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4 minutes ago, CCC said:

Buckeyebowmen, It was not a 'stymie'.

The ball was not in the direct line of the shot. But, if he had missed right, he might have made contact with the unmarked ball and used it as a 'back stop'. But he missed left of the hole.
 

That is why the term 'Protecting the field' came up. And I agree.

Yeah that's what I thought.  They do this all the time.  It's nothing new.

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1 hour ago, Golfingdad said:

Yeah that's what I thought.  They do this all the time.  It's nothing new.

This is not right. Sounds too much like collusion among the playing the partners to me. And, in this case, it was so obvious for everyone to see. Including Gary McCord. Busted. Big Time.

The ball was too close to the hole  - to not mark the ball and pick it up. Again, he just stood around and watched as the other player took his drop from the water (you know how long this can take). Got his read for his chip. And lined up his shot. The whole time the unmarked ball sits there 2-3 feet from the hole. He could have marked, and then picked his ball up and cleaned it, etc.....

For the benefit of the doubt, I guess he did not think his playing partner was going to come anywhere close to the hole with his chip. Whatever his thought process was, he was in no hurry to pick up his ball.

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45 minutes ago, CCC said:

This is not right. Sounds too much like collusion among the playing the partners to me. And, in this case, it was so obvious for everyone to see. Including Gary McCord. Busted. Big Time.

The ball was too close to the hole  - to not mark the ball and pick it up. Again, he just stood around and watched as the other player took his drop from the water (you know how long this can take). Got his read for his chip. And lined up his shot. The whole time the unmarked ball sits there 2-3 feet from the hole. He could have marked, and then picked his ball up and cleaned it, etc.....

For the benefit of the doubt, I guess he did not think his playing partner was going to come anywhere close to the hole with his chip. Whatever his thought process was, he was in no hurry to pick up his ball.

First of all, none of them are "partners".  They are fellow competitors (FC for brevity).  When discussing the rules, correct terminology is crucial for clarity. 

Nothing in the rules or etiquette requires that the ball be marked unless his FC asks him to do so.  The ball apparently was not on his line of play, so there really is no reason for all of this outrage.  As is so often the case, McCord was just shooting his mouth off to hear himself talk.  

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Decisions 22/6 and 22/7 discuss this general situation.  First, the guy off the green cannot request that the ball near the hole be left in place.  If he does, and the other guy agrees to leave it in place, they can both be DQed.  If a rules official is there, and requests that the player mark his ball, the player must do so.  If he objects, it would be taken as evidence of an agreement to leave the ball in place in order to assist the player who is off the green.  The rules official could then advice them that failure to lift the ball would result in DQ.

This is almost certainly one of those "wink wink" things that is never discussed, simply understood.  McCord may have been justified in raising a red flag.  If the ball on the green was in position to assist the other player (i.e. just past the hole, were it could stop a shot that was struck too hard), it should have been marked to protect the field.

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Would be dumb luck if he had hit the ball. If he had the ability to be that precise then why not just hit it in the hole. Non-issue to me nothing to protect GM is a wind bag. 

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its an unspoken "you scratch my back ill scratch yours" kind of thing.

McCord is a moron for acting like this doesnt happen every single week on tour. blowhard windbag.

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9 minutes ago, Dave2512 said:

Would be dumb luck if he had hit the ball. If he had the ability to be that precise then why not just hit it in the hole. Non-issue to me nothing to protect GM is a wind bag. 

I think that misses the point.

If my ball is a foot from the cup, and behind the hole slightly, you'd prefer if you're chipping that I leave the ball there because if your ball has a little extra speed, it could hit my ball and yours would finish closer than it otherwise would have.

It's not about "aiming" at the ball, it's about aiming at the general area, and a ball assisting the play of another player.

Quote

 

22-1. Ball Assisting Play 

Except when a ball is in motion, if a player considers that a ball might assist any other player, he may: 

a.

Lift the ball if it is his ball; or 

b.

Have any other ball lifted. 

A ball lifted under this Rule must be replaced (see Rule 20-3). The ball must not be cleaned, unless it lies on the putting green (see Rule 21). 

In stroke play, a player required to lift his ball may play first rather than lift the ball. 

In stroke play, if the Committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitorthey are disqualified

Note: When another ball is in motion, a ball that might influence the movement of the ball in motion must not be lifted.

 

 

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So, Erik has a really good memory and, with a teeny bit of help from me, was able to find a previous discussion we had on this exact topic.  Here is the thread:

 

And here is most of the excerpt:

On 1/30/2014 at 4:13 PM, BENtSwing said:

Anyone else think Gary Woodland seems like and absolute d**k? On that short par 4  he chipped it to 3 feet, Bubba still had to chip on and Woodland wouldn't mark his ball even though it was right in Bubba's line. How some people feel and big Phil, I'm starting to feel that way about Woodland. Reminds me of a spoiled jock in high school.

 

 

On 1/30/2014 at 4:32 PM, Golfingdad said:

Nope, you are mistaken.  I have it on right now and replayed it a bunch of times.  Woodland swaps his wedge for his putter with his caddy and then starts to immediately walk towards his ball, takes two steps then clearly veers off to the left.  They immediately cut to Bubba who is already starting his routine.  He didn't "refuse" to mark it, he recognized that Bubba didn't want him to.  His ball being there is actually helping Bubba because it's NOT on his line (his ball misses Woodlands by 16-18" and hits the hole) so if Bubba happens to blade one he could get lucky and be "saved" if it hits Woodlands ball.

Pay enough attention and you will see they do this for each other often.

In fact, if you watched Dubai yesterday, Tiger did this exact thing.  He pitched on while a ball was sitting a couple of feet beside the hole (not Rorys, the other guy whose name is escaping me right now), hit it too hard, and plunked that ball ... leaving himself with a simple 3 footer, instead of an 8-10 footer coming back.

 

On 1/30/2014 at 11:37 PM, Lowkie said:

It may be a dumb question, but why would they do this for each other.  Whoever is on the green (say Woodland) and Bubba chips up and hits his ball.  Bubba is now saved but Woodland would now be in a worse position.  While I'm all for sportsmanship and all, but it is still a competition with a lot of money on the line.  Can any one explain?

 

On 1/30/2014 at 11:58 PM, David in FL said:

I didn't see the actual footage, but it doesn't really sound like Woodland did it intentionally to help , but rather saw that Bubba was ready to go and just opted not to interrupt him in his routine.  18" off line isn't likely to really help or bother these guys.....

And just as an aside, if that were to happen, Woodland would replace his ball where it had been before being hit.....no harm to him.

 

On 1/30/2014 at 2:09 AM, iacas said:

FWIW I hate that "unwritten rule." Players should be marking their balls if they think it could assist another player. But there's this "if you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" bit on Tour that seems to go against the principles just a bit.

 

On 1/30/2014 at 3:04 AM, iacas said:

IMO it goes against the principles. Tiger's ball should have been 8-10 feet away, not in basically gimme range. The result of his shot was altered because a player knowingly aided his play by leaving his ball. Thus that player (Gallacher or whatever, I think) failed to protect the field.

 

On 1/30/2014 at 3:13 AM, Golfingdad said:

That's exactly what I was going to say.  They harp on the "protecting the field" aspect of everything, but this unwritten rule solely protects your fellow competitor to the detriment of the field.

But, overall, it doesn't really bother me that much because:

A)  They all do it, which means that it evens itself out over time.  If none of them care, then I'm not going to get too worked up over it.

B)  It almost never actually affects anything.  Tiger's ball hitting Gallachers (thank you, that was the guy) ball on Thursday was the first time I've ever actually seen it "work" in this way.

C)  It is always done under the guise of speeding up play, so I don't know exactly how they'd enforce it.  Bubba'd be like "What, I'm just trying to keep everything moving and you guys are always talking about us playing too slow, now you want me to slow down??"

But I definitely agree that it seems to stand out a bit and go against the overall philosophy.

 

On 1/30/2014 at 4:15 AM, hopefulhacker said:

I'm not exactly sure on my thoughts on it myself. In one sense it seems to go against things and "the field" is at a disadvantage. But on the other hand, if "the field" are playing the same way then it is equitable for all. The advantage a front running/ star player gains will always get more coverage but it could have benefitted 10 other guys down the field too. And another 10 the following week. To flip it around a bit: marking any ball goes against the principle of "playing it as it lies"

 

On 1/30/2014 at 4:22 AM, Golfingdad said:

Here's my guess:

Somebody who's in the hunt on Sunday has his ball stopped from scurrying through the green on a poor chip in a situation like this, is able to save an easy par, and go on to win by a shot or two AND it is being announced by somebody like the guy yesterday (apologies, I forget his name - I'm doing that a lot lately) who was quite adamant that he didn't like the practice.

If that happens then we probably see this thing get addressed and somehow enforced, but until then, they'll just go on doing it the way they do it, scratching backs.

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58 minutes ago, iacas said:

I think that misses the point.

If my ball is a foot from the cup, and behind the hole slightly, you'd prefer if you're chipping that I leave the ball there because if your ball has a little extra speed, it could hit my ball and yours would finish closer than it otherwise would have.

It's not about "aiming" at the ball, it's about aiming at the general area, and a ball assisting the play of another player.

 

The key word in the rule is "may".  

This is why I get frustrated when so-called "experts" like McCord go off on something like this without knowing what they are talking about.  They give a false impression that marking is a requirement, then guys like the OP take up the baton and run with it, and pretty soon you have a whole string of folks passing on misinformation.  Several years ago Ken Venturi did the same thing (don't remember now what the situation was) and got a bunch of people riled up when Venturi was completely wrong.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

I think that misses the point.

If my ball is a foot from the cup, and behind the hole slightly, you'd prefer if you're chipping that I leave the ball there because if your ball has a little extra speed, it could hit my ball and yours would finish closer than it otherwise would have.

It's not about "aiming" at the ball, it's about aiming at the general area, and a ball assisting the play of another player.

 

I got that, the ball could have been considered a back stop. My post is about the way GM reacted to it. Sometimes tour players mark before everyone gets on the green, sometimes they don't. When they don't it doesn't appear there is any risk of what you described happening. In this case to my eyes it looked like a routine chip. GM questioned it in a way that suggested it was so awkward not marking the ball could be construed that it was a designed bank shot. Reality was the ball wasn't in the line of play.

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5 minutes ago, Fourputt said:

The key word in the rule is "may".  

This is why I get frustrated when so-called "experts" like McCord go off on something like this without knowing what they are talking about.  They give a false impression that marking is a requirement, then guys like the OP take up the baton and run with it, and pretty soon you have a whole string of folks passing on misinformation.  Several years ago Ken Venturi did the same thing (don't remember now what the situation was) and got a bunch of people riled up when Venturi was completely wrong.

On the other hand, the rules say they can't agree to leave a ball in place that could help either player.  A rules official may remind them to mark a ball that's in position to assist the other player, and if the player objects, the objection can be taken as evidence of an agreement.  To me this is an "unspoken" agreement to circumvent the rules.  Because it's unspoken, it's also unenforceable, unless a rules official makes a point point of doing something at the time.  This particular circumstance seems to be closer to the baseball idea of enforcing the rules...."Get away with anything you can, its legal until someone catches you." Just because it's unenforceable doesn't mean it's within the spirit of the rules.

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