The Pro’s Getting it Wrong – Relief for an Embedded Ball
Matt Kucher fund himself at the centre of an odd rules impasse at the US PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament, where multiple officials and a television replay were needed to sort it out.
Playing the 17th hole at Muirfield Village, Kuchar’s drive ended up in the edge of a pitch mark that he and PGA Tour rules official Robby Ware both agreed was not his. Kuchar, however, argued that he should get relief because he believed his ball had created a second pitch mark within the original.
Players are entitled to a free drop from their own pitch mark but not from one made by another player
“The rule says it’s got to be your pitch mark,” Ware said after being called to the scene. “If the ball rolled, there’s no way it’s gonna create a second pitch mark.” Kuchar continued to try to make his case, saying, “What if it rolls and it kind of hops up and hops down?”
Ware wasn’t buying it. “Even if it hopped up just an inch or two it’s not gonna create [its own mark],” he said.
Ware then brought in a cameraman from Golf Channel to view a replay of the shot, which showed the ball taking a couple of hops before settling into what all agreed was not Kuchar’s own pitch mark.
Kuchar still wasn’t satisfied, however, and maintained essentially that the second bounce had created a second pitch mark. “Oh yeah, you see that Robby?” he said to Ware after viewing the replay. “It popped straight up. That has potential to have broken a different ground than what was initially a pitch mark.”
When Ware was unmoved, Kuchar asked for a second opinion. Rules official Stephen Cox sided with Ware.
“Ultimately it’s already in a hole made by somebody else,” Cox said. “I’m not buying that fact on the second bounce we’re now gonna get you out of a pitch mark made by somebody else.”
Kuchar then asked Cox to then take a look at the film. “I don’t need to look at it, Matt,” Cox continued. “The guys have already seen it on TV. Let’s get back into play.”
Kuchar then asked if he could seek a third opinion. The answer was no, with the episode finally concluding more than 10 minutes after it began. Kuchar went on to par the hole anyway before finishing with a one-over 73. Afterward, Kuchar told reporters it was a “confusing rule.”
“The only reason I did it is just from seeing the video,” Kuchar said. “I only asked for a second one because I thought there was potential and thought, you never know, you may get someone else who says there is potential for that to happen and we need to look further into that.”
WHAT DO THE RULES SAY?
16.3 9 (A) Embedded Ball
(1) Relief is allowed under Rule 16.3b only when a player’s ball is embedded in the general area. There is no relief under this Rule if the ball is embedded anywhere except in the general area.
Exceptions – When Relief Not Allowed:
- When the ball is embeddedin sand in a part of the general area that is not cut to fairway height or less, or
- When interference by anything other than the ball being embeddedmakes the stroke clearly unreasonable (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush).
A player’s ball is embedded only if:
- It is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player’s previous stroke, and
- Part of the ball is below the level of the ground.
If the player cannot tell for sure whether the ball is in its own pitch-mark or a pitch-mark made by another ball, the player may treat the ball as embedded if it is reasonable to conclude from the available information that the ball is in its own pitch-mark.
“That is the most amusing thing I’ve ever seen someone try to get a ruling on,” 18-time major winner and Memorial host Nicklaus said on the TV broadcast.