Friday, July 8, 2016

Ask Linda #1336-Player pockets opponent’s ball

Dear Linda,
Format: Ryder Cup competition among friends. Four ball (better ball) A/B vs. C/D.

A tees off and his ball is heading slightly left towards some trees. We hear it hit and assume it came to rest in rough or maybe fairway. Player C tees off and hits it far but looks like it's going OB right. He hits a provisional, which ends up being a worm burner up the left side.

As A/B approach fairway after everyone hits, we see D standing over a ball. C tells him to wait there just in case he finds his first and it's playable (which he does and it is). D picks up C's provisional ball. At this point, A/B have been searching about two minutes.

A/B look for 5 minutes and are unable to locate A's ball. A declares he is out of the hole since walking back to the tee wasn't an option (we were slow and the marshall and group behind would have killed us). We get to the green and C asks D for the ball he picked up. C says this isn't my ball. It was a TaylorMade 2 with A's logo on it. D had stood over and eventually picked up A's ball.

What's the ruling there? Is A allowed to go back? Is D disqualified?

Sorry for the long-winded question and if you had already answered this along the way. Love your blog
Lou from Rye, New York

Dear Lou,

Your scenario has made me extremely unhappy. Your group made so many mistakes I hardly know where to begin. Let’s take a look at all the avoidable errors:

• Before Player C hit his provisional, he should have reminded everyone of the brand, number, and personal identification mark on his original ball, and then given everyone the same information about his provisional ball.

• Player D, before lifting what he thought was C’s provisional ball, should have looked it at and asked: “Is anyone playing a TaylorMade 2 with two green dots?” (I took the liberty of making up a personal ID mark). Player A would have the opportunity to state: “Holy cow! How did my ball get over there?” End of story, A plays his ball, the match continues without incident.

• Players A and B, having searched unsuccessfully for A’s ball for two minutes, should have shouted over to D on the other side of the fairway to check the ball, just in case A’s ball might have ricocheted off the tree and settled on the other side of the fairway (clearly what transpired) – this is not an unusual occurrence.

• Player C should have told D to make sure the ball D was about to pick up was indeed C’s provisional, since D (and everyone else, if the proper announcement had been made) knew what ball C had used for a provisional.

As you can see, all four players are partially responsible for this fiasco.

Player D is disqualified from the hole. He picked up his opponent’s ball in play and pocketed it. Player A is entitled to replace the ball and continue playing the hole. [This answer was confirmed by a USGA official.]

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