Monday, June 13, 2011

Ask Linda #311-No provisional for ball in water hazard

Hi Linda,

I read an article regarding Greg Norman's disqualification for mistakenly played a provisional ball. The article reads:

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Greg Norman didn't know the rules. When he found out the penalty, he decided he was better off going home.

Playing on the PGA Tour for the first time this year, Norman disqualified himself Friday in the Honda Classic after incorrectly playing a provisional tee shot on the 13th hole.

Norman hit a provisional tee shot because he thought his ball went into a water hazard. The rules allow for a provisional only if the original ball is believed to be lost or out-of-bounds, not in a hazard.

His original tee shot turned out to be safe, in a bunker, but Norman's mistake was not playing the provisional.

Norman, even par at the time and in position to make the cut, left Mirasol without comment.

"I don't think he was real happy," PGA Tour rules official Slugger White said. "I talked to him on the phone. He was OK. He just said he messed up."

Roger Maltbie, an NBC Sports analyst and former player, was the first to notice the violation. "I was trying to keep the man from getting DQ'ed," Maltbie said. "I know plenty of people knew what was going on. It wouldn't go away. There was an infraction of the rules."

Norman hit his tee shot to the right on the par-4 13th, a dogleg right framed down the right side by a hazard. Fred Couples, who was in the threesome, said the volunteer marshal didn't make it clear whether the ball stayed on the course or went into the hazard.

After Couples and Charles Howell III hit their drives, Norman said he was going to play a provisional tee shot for a ball in the water hazard.

White cited the "Decisions of Golf" under Rule 27-2a on provisional balls.

Under these circumstances -- Norman hitting a provisional for the wrong reason -- the second shot became the ball in play. And even though he found his original shot in the bunker, that ball was no longer in play.
Norman's mistake was picking up the second shot and playing his original tee ball from the bunker. He hit wedge into 15 feet and three-putted for bogey.

Norman could have fixed his mistake. White said Norman would have had to return to where his second tee shot landed (in the fairway). He would have been lying three, then assessed a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball (his original tee shot in the bunker, which at that point had been declared out of play).
That means Norman would have been hitting his sixth shot into the green.

"He chose not to do that," White said. "He said, 'I'm disqualified,' and left. And that's the way we left it."
Couples said he wasn't aware of the rule, and everything happened quickly. Maltbie knew it well, calling the rule "pretty basic."

"The next thing I see is Greg re-teeing," Maltbie said. "As Greg walked down the fairway, I said to him, 'Greg, you're not entitled to play a provisional for a ball in the water hazard.' He said, 'Fine, then give me two shots.' I said, 'I'm not the rules guy here.'"

Rules official Steve Rintoul explained the situation to Norman, who declined to go back to the fairway. At best, Norman would have made triple-bogey 7 to go 3 over, with three of the toughest holes awaiting him.

"There would be no reason (to keep playing) unless he really, really liked us," Couples said. "I think I'd have done the same thing -- bye, see ya later. He hasn't been playing much, and he was playing well. I'm sure he didn't want that to happen."

Linda, the rules official cited Rule 27-2a which prohibits Mr. Norman from playing a provisional for a wrong reason. My question is: Is Mr. Norman entitled to play a provisional ball under Decision 27-2a/2.2?  I will appreciate your thoughts on this.

Thank you.

Dear Lou,

Sometimes the rules make you frown and scratch your head.

A player is permitted to play a provisional ball for a ball that may be lost outside a water hazard [Rule 27-2a]. Players are not permitted to play a provisional for a ball that is in a water hazard.

I gather from the article that Greg Norman said he was going to play a provisional shot for a ball in the water hazard. Since he was not certain that his ball was in the hazard, he should have said: “I am going to hit a provisional because my ball may be lost outside the hazard.” Had he said that, you and I would not be having this discussion. By saying that his provisional was for a ball in the hazard, he violated the rules.

Decision 27-2a/2.2 explains that a player is allowed to hit a provisional for a ball that may be in a hazard but also may be lost outside the hazard. Norman could have played a provisional. The mistake he made was in saying his provisional was for a ball in the hazard, rather than for a ball that might be lost outside the hazard.

This is a clear example of why it is so important to be well-versed in the rules. If Norman had phrased his announcement of the provisional correctly, he would have been able to continue play with the original ball that he found in the bunker.

Copyright © 2011 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.