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Understanding Rory's Penalty

If you think following cricket is hard, try keeping up with all the Rules of Golf that may or may be violated week to week in the professional game.

Abu Dhabi and the HSBC Championship certainly have had their share this week. First there was the brouhaha with Sergio García, who was seen on television tapping down the green on the line of his putt. Viewers called and e-mailed and a short snippet of video went up on an Irish website, all of which proved much ado about nothing. García had repaired a pitch mark and was waiting for his fellow competitor, Henrik Stenson, to putt before finishing up the housekeeping, all perfectly within the rules.

An incident today was little more obtuse, and a lot more penal. Rory McIlroy appeared to have played himself to within a shot of the lead, but then his score mysteriously dropped from 11 under to 9 under.

European Tour rules official John Paramor, famous in America for the slow-play penalty he assessed 14-year-old Guan Tianlang at The Masters while missing Tiger’s bad drop, summed up the situation in Abu Dhabi after the round.

“Rory’s ball came to rest in a marked gallery crosswalk to the left of the second fairway from which relief is available under the rules, as if it’s a piece of ground under repair,” Paramor said. “He found what he thought to be his nearest point of relief where the ball was outside and when he dropped the ball within a club length, when he actually (addressed) the ball, his left foot was standing on or just over the line demarking the area of ground under repair which is treated as part of the ground under repair. Therefore he has not taken full relief and he is in breach of the Rule 25-1, the penalty for which is two strokes.”

Didn’t know that one? You’re not alone. Having to take complete relief is standard for all free drops, but unlike football and basketball where rules about the sidelines, end zone and three-point lines are clear, golf rules are bit more vague. A ball on a hazard line is in the hazard, but if any part of a ball is on the out-of-bounds line (including a clump of mud that might be attached to the ball but not otherwise part of the ball), the ball is deemed to be in bounds.

Now we know that if any part of your foot is “on or just over” a ground-under-repair line, it’s no different than if you and the ball were in the middle of the marked area.

Rory told Golf By Tour Miss, “There (are) a lot of stupid rules in golf and this is one.”

He won’t get a lot of disagreement on that point.


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