Bill Nichols

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nelson preview: Inside the Rules with PGA official David Price

 By Tom Spousta

Knowing where to take a drop can be advantageous

But Price, head professional at Bent Tree Country Club and a top PGA of America rules official, saw it as a case study. If the Rules of Golf imitated art, this would be a Salvador Dali original.

“That’s the perfect scenario where Jason used the rules to his advantage,” Price said. Day not only expressed himself, he salvaged bogey from a better lie and notched his first PGA Tour victory. Price further shared his appreciation of Day’s knowledge and expertise on how and where to make such drop.


So let’s set the stage for Day’s decision. First, you must know how to apply the rules, hopefully in your favor. Do you get one club length from the nearest point of relief? Two club lengths from an unplayable lie or after knocking a shot in a hazard? Actually, it’s easy to remember. “A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: When you are getting a penalty stroke, you’re allowed that one extra club length to have more room to get that drop,” Price said.


Price continued: “In most relief cases, examples like ground under repair, dealing with obstructions, casual water, ball lost in a burrowing animal hole, you find the nearest point of relief, then you’re allowed one club length from that area.” No penalty incurred in such situations.


Under Rule 26-1 (relief for ball in water hazard), Day needed to determine where the ball last crossed the water hazard. Then, under 26-1c, Day was allowed as an additional option to find a point on the opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole, and drop there.

“What Jason Day did was go to the bank immediately opposite him,” Price said. “That got him on the other side where it was flatter. He was able to drop the ball there, he didn’t have as much water to play over, and because it was a much flatter lie, it made the shot a whole lot easier.”


Despite the one-stroke penalty, it proved a fortunate situation, and knowing the rules gave Day an escape route. “If he had dropped that ball on the original spot, and it ended up staying up on that bank, he would have had his feet way below the ball and it would have been a much more difficult chip,” Price said. “He could have dropped the ball, it starts rolling back toward the water hazard, then stops, and so the ball’s in play, and then he ends up maybe having to stand in the water to hit the shot. There’s any number of things that could have happened in that situation. It was a good break for him.”


Suppose Day’s ball had plugged in the bank outside the hazard? There’s no penalty, but be aware of the drop procedure. “A plugged ball is a ball imbedded,” Price said. “A ball imbedded requires you to drop the ball at the spot where it’s imbedded. You’re literally trying to drop back into the imbedded hole, or as close as possible, to the hole you created by your previous stroke. You don’t get the benefit of a club length there.”

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