One of the most talked about rulings in professional golf occurred on the 18th hole in Valderramah when Seve Ballesteros needed a par to tie with Bernhard Langer for the Volvo Masters title.
But Seve had pushed his tee shot right with his ball coming to rest in loose soil from a hole, behind a large cork tree. After carefully examining the lie of the ball the Spaniard called the Tour Referee, John Paramor, for a ruling. He felt that his ball was lying in earth which had been removed by whatever had dug the hole and that he may be entitled to relief from the condition under Rule 25-1, Abnormal Ground Condition.
Gophers, thanks to Caddyshack, are probably the bestknown burrowing animals to golfers; but not dogs! Paramor explained that relief without penalty would only be available if the hole had been made by a burrowing animal and the cast (loose earth) was deemed to interfere with the lie of the ball or the area of his intended swing. . “Note: A hole made by a non-burrowing animal, such as a dog, is not an abnormal ground condition unless marked or declared as ground under repair.”
After a thorough search of the area around the ball the official came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that the hole had been made by a burrowing animal and ruled that the ball must be played as it lay, or could be deemed unplayable for a penalty stroke. The position of the ball made this a crucial ruling; if Seve had been permitted to drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief from the condition he would have had a clear shot to the green.
However, despite over 20 minutes of animated discussion, with Seve utilising his renowned expertise in pressure persuasion, Paramor refused to change his original ruling, so that the only possible shot that Seve could make was to chip out sideways, meaning that his chance of victory was gone. Seve’s fellow competitor, Colin Montgomerie, who had to stand aside as the debate raged on, was not so diplomatic when asked for his opinion on the incident. He curtly replied; “He was trying it on.”