THE DJ RULEYeah, they may call it "a local rule modifying Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1" but we all know what it is. It's an attempt to avoid any more debacles like the one at Oakmont. But will this rule actually do that?
I'm not so sure. Let me explain.
For those of you who missed it, here's the short version of the new USGA and R&A rule:
“Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:You can read the full text here. The reason it's only a local rule is because they're making this change outside of the official rule update cycle, so they can't make it a "full" rule yet. GC posted the following infographic about the rule on their website.
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.
The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.
Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.”
It sounds great, doesn't it? If a ball on the putting green gets moved accidentally, it's replaced with no penalty.
So why am I still concerned?
No one has really paid attention to the wording of this rule yet, have they? Reread the short version of the rule that I posted above, and pay special attention to my emphasis:
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved BY the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.Correct me if I'm wrong, but the problem has been that players said they didn't cause the ball to move. Doesn't the rule -- as worded -- mean that the player has to say that he or she DID CAUSE the ball to move in order to replace the ball without penalty?
Because if "wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity" caused the ball to move, it must be played from its new position. If the ball is replaced under those conditions, Rule 20-7 levies a 2-stroke penalty on the player.
So the rule -- as worded -- requires either:
- the player must say THEY CAUSED the ball to move in order to replace it without penalty OR
- we STILL have to determine whether the player moved the ball or not in order to avoid the penalty for moving a ball that's in play.
That is, unless the USGA and the R&A felt the real problem was that the players weren't being honest about causing the ball to move in the first place. And that's a whole different kettle of worms, isn't it?