Rules officials do their best to assure a level playing field for all contestants, but do listen to the players and fans as well when making their decisions, looking at television replays when possible.
During the third round of the 2010 Arnold Palmer tournament at Bay Hill, Kevin Na hooked a drive left of the cart path and close enough to the out of bounds on No. 9 that he hit a provisional. A lady in the gallery picked up the first ball under a hedge. Of course, she should have left it there to give Na a chance to actually see it. When asked to point out where she picked up the ball by an official, she showed him and in his judgment it was outside the OB boundary. However, Na wouldn’t accept that answer and called for a second opinion, one of his options. However, this official concurred that the ball had been OB. However, Na got a little hot under the collar and would not continue play, and was reported to have said,”I don’t care if you’re Budda, you’re going to be upset. Am I mad at the lady? No, I’m mad at the situation.”
The bad thing about the situation for the rest of the field was that it took more than 30 minutes before Na would go over to his provisional and continue play. As a result, one group played through and at one point three twosomes were stacked up on the tee.
In my opinion, maybe the PGA Tour needs to address this situation and disqualify a player in the future who will not accept a ruling in a reasonable amount of time.
Sometimes a player will get a different answer as I found out when working at the Ben Hogan Tour event in Odessa. A player was up against the lip of a fairway bunker and there was an ant bed nearby, but they were not fire ants for which the rules said you got relief. I told the player he had to play the ball. He asked for another opinion. That’s when he got the answer he wanted from one of the officials from the Tour. “We have to be with them each week,” the official told me later explaining his reasoning
The format can make a difference in a ruling, too. Ian Poulter’s approach to the seventh green during the 2010 World Match Play Championship flew the green and ended up in a bush. There was a television tower in his line of sight to the flagstick if he opted to hit the ball. A rules official, who I thought was acting as a referee for the match, told him it was clearly unreasonable for him to even reach the temporary immovable obstruction. Poulter asked for a second opinion, pointing out the difference between stroke play and match play. Even opponent Sergio Garcia seemed to side with Poulter. The second official agreed, giving Poulter the option of.
finding the nearest point of relief. When that was also in an undesirable position, Poulter chipped out sideways. Then he chipped to 15 feet and made the putt for bogey, forcing Garcia to convert from six feet for winning par.
Doug Hoffmann of the Minnesota Golf Association agreed with the way the situation was handled—and so did I– since a player might decide to try unusual shots in match play that he or she wouldn’t consider in stroke play. However, the circumstance would have been different if the rules official had been acting as the referee as described by the rules book, who is given the final decision. No second opinions matter