A kinder, gentler U.S. Golf Association? Probably not, but nevertheless a new rule might soon go into effect regarding what happens if a ball moves on the green. USGA Vice President Tom O’ Toole addressed the subject at May 2 at Congressional Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Open. The issue came to the fore (sorry about that) at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans when Webb Simpson was penalized on the 15th hole for breach of rule 18(2)(b) that states if the ball moves after a player addresses it, the rules deem that that player has caused that ball to move.
Before attempting to tap in for par, Simpson’s ball moved, probably because of the wind. Regardless, it costs him one stroke and he eventually lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson.
“I happen to have been a member of the USGA rules of golf committee since 2004, the prior rules cycle,” O’Toole said. “Glen Nager (chairman of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee) and I have been members of our joint rules committee in this entire rules cycle since 2008, and I can tell you that this subject has been a point of discussion in both rules cycles. In fact, subject to such approvals that will occur hopefully in the coming months between our USGA Executive Committee and the Royal & Ancient Rules Limited that there is a proposed change to rule 18(2)(b), which is a new exception under that rule, which is if it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, then the rule under 18(2)(b) does not apply. In other words, if some other agency, wind or gravity, was known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied to that player.’’
It’s a good change but unfortunately, too late for Simpson.