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  1. I think the USGA/R&A got this one completely wrong, and it's one of the two rules changes for 2019 that I absolutely hate. One of the great things about golf is that it's a self-policed game. At every level of the sport, we're supposed to call penalties on ourselves and know the rules. Rule 6-1 - the first rule in "The Player" - is "The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules." In the 2019 Rules, that says "Players are responsible for applying the Rules to themselves:" Except that they're not, really, because there's absolutely no further penalty to be had if they fail to play by and apply the Rules to themselves. In 2019, all you have to do is claim ignorance of a rule, and if nobody catches you, you get away free and clear. Worst case scenario* - you're caught and the strokes you actually incur (but no additional strokes) are added to your score. Outside of not wanting to get a reputation as a cheater, there's no longer any incentive to apply the Rules of golf to yourself in 2019 and beyond. Only a few short years ago, as you may know, failure to include a penalty stroke meant you posted a score for a hole lower than what you shot, and you were DQed. That rule still exists… so long as you don't claim that you didn't know you broke the rule. Only recently, the rule was changed to add two strokes additionally to each penalty you incurred. The rule got softer. It went from a DQ to an additional penalty. Fine - there's still incentive to know the Rules. Had Lexi brain farted and put her ball down nearly an inch from where it was a second prior, and added the two-stroke penalty to her score, she'd have likely won that major and been hailed as Bobby Jones was in 1925: At the 1925 U.S. Open, Bobby Jones moved his ball slightly while setting up for a shot. No one saw it, but Jones was adamant that the ball had moved and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty, costing him the win, as he went on to lose in a playoff. Praised for his classy move, Jones quipped, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.” No, nowadays, we have Lexi Thompson playing the role of the victim, and the press willingly going along with it. Lexi did breach the rules. Did it suck that she gained no apparent advantage (though why did she move the ball so much? to avoid a spike mark or something we couldn't see?)? Yes. But the Rules, except for a few instances, don't care about the "potential" advantage. Normally playing a ball from further away is a disadvantage, but when Tiger Woods dropped two yards back it was, to him in that moment, an advantage. The Rules can't (and thus rarely do) determine whether an "advantage" is gained - one man's advantage is another man's disadvantage. If you drop on a sideslope instead of a flat lie where you're supposed to drop, is that an advantage or a disadvantage? The Rules can't - and thus almost never do - decide. They simply say "you dropped and then played from a wrong place in breach of the Rules. That's a penalty." The full (relevant) portion of the Rules is: (3) Wrong Score for a Hole. If the player returns a scorecard with a wrong score for any hole: Returned Score Higher Than Actual Score. The higher returned score for the hole stands. Returned Score Lower Than Actual Score or No Score Returned. The player isdisqualified. Exception – Failure to Include Unknown Penalty: If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because he or she excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard: The player is not disqualified. Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition, theCommittee will revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rules. This exception does not apply: When the excluded penalty is disqualification, or When the player was told that a penalty might apply or was uncertain whether a penalty applied and did not raise this with the Committee before returning thescorecard. The exception is the big thing here, the big change from even 2017. It says that, if you claim that you didn't know that hitting it OB was stroke and distance and you fail to include the "stroke part," no problem. It says that if you claim not to know that you couldn't hit a practice shot while playing a round after you flub an approach, no sweat. It says that if you drop a ball in a wrong place when dropping on the wrong side of a cart path and gaining a much better lie, or two club lengths from the edge of a yellow penalty area, or two yards back like Tiger did at the Masters… or anything else… that doesn't matter at all! You're all good! That part above about how players are responsible for knowing and applying the Rules? They didn't actually mean that. There's no long any incentive, outside of perhaps not wanting to be seen as a serial cheater, to know the Rules of Golf. Not the ones that can penalize you, anyway. Sure, there are still incentives to know when you get free drops away from cart paths and things like that, but players are now actively incentivized to not only play ignorant, but to actually BE ignorant to the Rules of Golf. If they're not caught, they get away with it. If they are caught, why, they only get the penalty they actually incurred. Nothing more. You're obligated to pay taxes. If you fail to pay, and you're caught three years later… you don't just pay what you originally owed. You owe what you originally owed, plus interest, plus additional penalties. I get that the USGA/R&A are trying to treat players as honest, but in going to this length they've gone much too far. They're actually rewarding the dishonest players. They're rewarding the ignorant players. This saddens me greatly. 😢 P.S. Yes, the poll choices are highly biased. Tough. It's my poll, and I don't think there's an argument to be made. 😄
  2. We're in that special hell of rules controversies with the implementation of the new Rules of Golf. There have been some growing pains with the new rules, and that has allowed the golf media to tee off on its favorite target, the USGA. Which, to be fair, can make itself an easy target: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/despite-harsh-words-from-some-tour-pros-usga-pleased-with-roll-out-of-new-rules-of-golf. That aside, I wanted to talk about the "controversy" about the knee-height drop that the Rules now require. Rickie Fowler got a one stroke penalty for dropping from shoulder height this past weekend. Cue the complaining from him: https://golfweek.com/2019/02/22/rickie-fowler-hit-with-one-shot-penalty-for-illegal-drop-at-wgc-mexico-championship/ I can forgive him - he just had a brain fart, probably didn't gain an advantage in this situation, it cost him money. I'm always annoyed when I get a penalty, personally, and it's absolutely never my fault, okay? But cue the pearl clutching from the media: https://www.golf.com/news/2019/02/25/backstopping-pro-tours-under-policed/ I'm here to tell you that this is wrong, and knee-height drops actually make a ton of sense. One of the best things the new Rules do is simplify dropping. Now, all you have to do when dropping is land the ball in the relief area (without touching you or your equipment before hitting the ground) and ensure the ball comes to rest in the relief area. If you don't do this, you have to redrop. Pretty simple. Yes, you have to figure out what your relief area is, but that's pretty simple, too. (For a fuller explanation of this, see Rule 14 and the definitions in the Rules of Golf.) The old rules were much more complex. Specifically, if your ball rolled to one of 9 areas after you dropped it, you had to redrop. For example, if your ball rolled more than 2 club lengths away from where your ball hit the ground, you had to redrop. You had to know all of these 9 areas to know if you needed to redrop or not. So, the new way is simpler, right? Instead of learning 9 different triggers for a redrop, you only have to learn 1. Great! Why am I talking about when you have to redrop? This is why we're dropping from knee height. Generally, under the new Rules, your ball cannot go as far after hitting the ground as it used to without triggering a redrop. Dropping from knee height reduces the chance that a redrop will be necessary. It also means that a ball has less of a chance of embedding in sand when you drop it. It makes a ton of sense, really. Now, you might say, that's all fine, but why not allow dropping a ball from anywhere above knee height? I think you could easily game the rules to be able to place the ball when you really want to by simply dropping from shoulder height instead of knee height. Think about dropping on a side slope, for example. You're much more likely to have to redrop and place if you drop the ball from a higher point. Sure, this is rare, but why take the chance? We're all on the same page, right? Knee-height drops make a lot of sense. (If you want to know more about the changes to dropping, this is an excellent article that talks about this in a bit more detail: https://rulesgeeks.com/2018/12/30-days-of-2019-rules-changes-day-16-procedure-for-dropping-a-ball-in-playing-it-from-a-relief-area/) Now to the point of all of this: golf media, please take 5 minutes to understand the rule before issuing a HAWT TAKE about the rule. The USGA has a one page sheet that explains the rule: http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/rules-modernization/major-changes/new-procedure-for-dropping-a-ball.html. You don't come off very well when you fail to read that. I know it's fun and easy to just mindlessly bash the USGA, but they do get things right. This is one of them. (Oh and by the way, the Rules are actually really good, as a whole. Maybe I'll talk about that in another post later.)
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