Two-shot penalty not to be for Justin Rose
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Justin’s score readjusted

Apparently Justin Rose’s ball didn’t move quite enough on Moving Day to get penalized. Upon further review overnight, the two-shot penalty Rose received Saturday evening following the third round at The Players Championship was rescinded by the PGA Tour. 

Rose was notified of the decision about an hour before his tee time and his third-round score was changed from a one-over 73 to a one-under 71, putting him at seven-under and trailing the leaders by five shots.

Rose was slapped with the extra strokes under Rule 18-2b after he addressed a chip from behind the 18th green at TPC Sawgrass. During the review in the TV trucks, it was determined by rules officials that Rose’s ball did move ever so slightly.

However, at the time, Rose watched the replay on the big screen TV by the 18th hole and consulted with playing partner Sergio Garcia and they didn’t think it changed position, so Rose continued with the shot. He spoke with officials 30 minutes after the round and was informed he had breached Rule 18-2b.

“That was a bitter pill to swallow at the end of a battling day,” said Rose on Saturday evening. “It was a very incredibly spongy, thatchy bit of fairway and the whole surface underneath my wedge gave way. And at that point you make a call, did my ball move, did it just sort of move with the turf and oscillate?

“Clearly, I was surprised, when I soled my club, to have that reaction, that the ball did. I backed off, and actually this is where it turns out to be my fault, but I looked at the big screen, they played it back on TV.

“As I’m on 18, I’m watching it replay, Sergio is there with me, and we both clearly look at the evidence and look at the replay and say, no, absolutely, the ball didn’t move.”

Here’s a Vine of the shot in question:

As you can see, it doesn’t appear the ball moved at all to the naked eye.

However, after watching the replay of the feed in three different TV trucks, including the Sky Sports trailer (European Tour rules official David Probyn phoned in while watching Sky Sports from across the pond), it was finally determined that the ball moved ever so slightly.

“Under 50 times magnification in the truck maybe the ball moved a quarter of a dimple toward the toe of the club, which, obviously, if the ball moved, it moved and I get assessed an extra stroke penalty,” said Rose on Saturday.  “Whereas, if, in the moment, I would have called the rules official, I would have only been assessed one stroke by moving it back.

“But as a player you have to make that judgment call.  And I’ve been out here a long time and trying to do the right thing and it was just, in the moment, I just felt that I could make that determination and, unfortunately  it was a surprising feeling when I did ground the club, but the whole area, I think there’s about six or eight inches around my ball, it was as if there was an old hole that it had grown over and it was just incredibly spongy there.”

Um, if they had to magnify it by 50 times, shouldn’t it have been clear that Rose was covered by Decision 18/4?

PGA Tour Vice President of Rules and Competition Mark Russell explained the application of this decision was considered, but at the time officials determined it wasn’t the case — likely because they were confused by Rose’s initial reaction and it’s a new rule that was only implemented January 1, 2014.

Overnight, rules officials conferred with one another and realized that this was, in fact, an incident where Decision 18/4 should have been applied, so Rose’s two-shot penalty was rescinded.

“This new decision, 18/4, we started talking this last night and this morning how this new tool we have and what it took us to determine the ball did move and we came to the conclusion that we used some very sophisticated technology to determine that, it was the only way we could determine it, and we applied this new decision that it was not discernible to the naked eye to the player and we decided to rescind the penalty,” said Russell.

Naturally, Rose was pleased with the outcome.

“I was good with the way everything played out; I want to play by the rules,” Rose told PGATOUR.COM before teeing off in the final round. “But I was reading an article in the evening and the rule states — and I’m paraphrasing — but if a player can’t discern whether the ball moved or not, it’s deemed not to have moved. I sort of scratched my head and said that’s exactly what happened to me and yet I was docked two.

“But obviously all the governing bodies — the USGA, R&A and PGA TOUR — all got together overnight to talk about it.”

Here’s the full statement from the PGA Tour:

After further review of the 2-stroke penalty given to Justin Rose during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship for a violation of Rule 18-2B and subsequent failure to replace the ball in the original place, the PGA TOUR Rules Committee has rescinded the penalty with Rose, who now enters the final round at 7-under-par. He will remain in his original pairing at 12:35 with Brian Stuard.

At the time of the review immediately following Rose’s round, in which Rose participated, it was thought that Decision 18/4 (Television Evidence Shows Ball at Rest Changed Position But by Amount Not Reasonably Discernible to Naked Eye) a copy of which is attached, was not applicable because the review of the footage shown in the telecast showed that the ball may have moved in a way that was discernable to the naked eye and when viewing the incident with Rose in the television compound, it was confirmed that the ball did in fact move very slightly.  Thus, at the time, the Rules Committee deemed that the ball had moved in a manner that was reasonably discernable to the naked eye. The Committee, therefore, assessed the general penalty under Rule 18 of two strokes.

Overnight, given the fact that Decision 18/4 had been implemented in January of 2014, yet had not been utilized in PGA TOUR competition, the Rules Committee reopened the incident and focused on how much the use of sophisticated technology played a part in making the original ruling. After that review, it was determined that the only way to confirm whether and how much the ball had in fact changed position, was to utilize sophisticated technology.

This morning, after consulting with the governing bodies and PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, it was determined that without the use of sophisticated technology, it was not reasonably discernable to the naked eye that the ball had left its original position and had come to rest in its original place. Thus, the player’s determination that the ball had not moved was deemed to be conclusive and the penalty does not apply in this situation. Having reached this decision, the Committee immediately notified Rose and rescinded the 2-stroke penalty.

Decision 18/4: Television Evidence Shows Ball at Rest Changed Position But by Amount Not Reasonably Discernible to Naked Eye

Q.A player addresses his ball. He observes a slight motion of the ball but believes that it has only oscillated and has not left its original position. He therefore plays the ball as it lies. Later, the Committee becomes aware from television evidence that the ball had in fact left its position and come to rest in another place, although that change of position was such that it was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time of the incident. What is the ruling?

A.The ball is deemed not to have moved and therefore there is no penalty under Rule 18-2b. The Definition of “Moved” – when a ball “leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place” – does not contemplate movements of the ball that are only discernible through the use of high definition television or any other form of sophisticated technology.

When determining whether or not his ball at rest has moved, a player must make that judgment based on all the information readily available to him at the time, so that he can determine whether the ball must be replaced under Rule 18-2b or another applicable Rule. When the player’s ball has left its original position and come to rest in another place by an amount that was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, a player’s determination that the ball has not moved will be deemed to be conclusive, even if that determination is later shown to be incorrect through the use of sophisticated technology.

On the other hand, if the Committee determines, based on all of the evidence it has available, that the ball changed its position by an amount that was reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, the ball is deemed to have moved. As the player did not replace the ball, he incurs a penalty under the applicable Rule and Rule 20-7c for playing from a wrong place.

These principles apply to any review of technological evidence by the Committee, whether before the player makes his next stroke or any time thereafter. These principles also apply in a situation in which the player made no determination whether or not his ball at rest moved (e.g., because he had walked away from his ball after addressing it, was not looking at his ball, or otherwise did not observe any motion of the ball or have any reason to believe that his ball might have moved).

Before determining whether his ball has moved, it is advisable for the player to obtain information from nearby witnesses to the incident and to seek guidance from a referee if one is immediately available. (New)

Got that? When Russell spoke with the media, the whole presser was somewhat humorous because we were all kind of confused by the situation, so basically, the same question was asked in a bunch of different ways and the same answer was given the equal number of times.

So, why didn’t they come to this conclusion sooner?

Officials were influenced by Rose’s reaction when he backed off the ball, which was partly why Decision 18/4 wasn’t put into effect at the time.

“Well, once we really started talking about this and reading this, going deep into this new decision, which we asked for, by the way, we realized that we did use sophisticated technology, that’s the only way we could really determine that,” said Russell. “Then we determined that it was not discernible to the naked eye, that he could, that he could not have determined that.  He said that.  And he did realize the ball moved, once we used the technology that was available in the television compound.”

After the ruling, officials continued the discussion of Decision 18/4, which had never come into play prior to this incident with Rose.

“We all started talking about it,” said Russell.  “This has never been used before.  It’s only been in the book for five months, but it’s a situation where it protects the player.  We asked for this decision.  We feel like that we did the right thing here.”

With Rose’s tee time remaining the same, he teed off around an hour before he should have, which could be a distinct advantage. Currently, Rose is three-under through nine holes and 10-under for the tournament — he’s closed the gap between him and the leaders, who just teed off, by only two strokes. Now, imagine the controversy if Rose manages to win the tournament!

“Well, I think the whole key there is ultimately we got it right,” said Russell. “And that is the most important thing.  That it’s done right.  And the right thing was done.”

(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)