Accidently moving a ball in a major tournament may no longer invoke a penalty now golf’s rule makers have agreed to change a controversial rule.
Several high-profile championships were thrown into confusion when judges changed scores on the leader board after viewing video evidence.
The change follows Dustin Johnson’s win at the US Open.
He moved the ball marginally on the fifth green and then holed in his final round. The match referee said the minor knock was OK, only to be over ruled a few holes later with a warning that he might incur a stroke penalty.
As a result, no one was aware of the winning score until after the tournament ended.
Docked a stroke
He was docked a stroke, reducing his winning margin from four to three strokes. The decision did not alter the result, but could easily have done so in a closer match.
Johnson is not the only player to fall foul of the law.
Danish woman golfer Marianne Skarpnord suffered the same punishment at the Rio Olympics and other golfers fell foul of the rule during the PGA tournament.
From January 1, tournament judges can choose to ignore the rule if they wish.
The decision was made by the US Golf Association and Royal & Ancient, the sports adjudicating bodies.
“We took the view that the rule was not working as well as it looks on paper and that we needed to try and address this,” David Rickman, executive director of governance at the R&A.
“Oakmont was clearly a difficult time and much has been said about that, but it was one of several cases that triggered this action.”
Judges can turn a blind eye
The lawmakers have not revoked the rule, but instead granted local judges leave to turn a blind eye.
“In practical terms it means that any competition organiser can introduce this local rule and it would mean any accidental movement of the ball on the putting green will be exempt from penalty,” said Rickman.
“If the player causes the ball to move there is no penalty, they put it back and if the player causes the ball marker to move there is no penalty, just put it back.”
The new measure only applies in specific circumstances – if a player or caddie accidentally moves the ball or if an outside influence, like wind, moves the ball.
Under the local rule, the ball may be played from the new position without penalty.