You probably recall the situation involving Phil Mickelson’s tee shot at
the par-three fourth hole during this year’s Masters tournament. Mickelson’s
ball struck the grandstand and came to rest in a bush. Rather than take relief
for an unplayable lie, he chose to play the ball with two right-handed strokes
which resulted in a triple bogey.
You may not remember that Mickelson was also involved in a rules
situation at the 11th hole during the fourth round. In that case,
his ball came to rest on a greenside sprinkler head. Mickelson took relief from
the immovable obstruction without incident. But what caused concern was the
rather confusing explanation provided by television commentator Ian Baker-Finch
for Mickelson’s dropping, rather than placing, the ball in taking relief.
Sometimes on live television, commentators can offer too much information
which can lead to viewer confusion. Baker-Finch explained that Mickelson was
taking relief from the obstruction by dropping the ball on the apron of the
green and “if the ball had been on the green it would be a placement
situation.” But the ball had come to
rest in the Masters “second cut,” not on the green, which made me wonder why
Baker-Finch even raised the issue.
Rule 24-2 deals with relief from immovable obstructions, such as the
sprinkler head. The rule states that a player is entitled to relief when his
ball lies in or on the obstruction or when the obstruction interferes with the
player’s stance or the area of intended swing. The relief procedure is to lift
the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of the nearest
point of relief, no closer to the hole. The ball can then roll up to two
club-lengths from where it first struck the ground.
In this case, Mickelson’s
club-length allowed him to lift the ball from the sprinkler head in the “second
cut” and drop the ball on the apron. From there, he two-putted for par.
If the ball had come to rest on the green, as Baker-Finch suggested, and
Mickelson incurred interference with stance or swing path from the sprinkler
head, he would have been entitled to place the ball at the nearest point of
relief on the green.
Here are a couple of “what if” scenarios that are a little more relevant
than Baker-Finch’s suggestion.
Let’s say Mickelson’s nearest point of relief from the sprinkler head was
just a few inches off the green. Could he have dropped the ball on the putting
green if it was within one club-length of his nearest point of relief?
No. Rule 24-2 does not permit the ball to be lifted from off the putting
green and dropped onto the putting green even if it is within one club-length.
However, he was entitled to lift his ball from the “second cut” and drop onto
the apron because the rules do not distinguish between rough and apron.
Now when Mickelson dropped the ball onto the apron, if the ball then
rolled onto the putting green, but was still within two club-lengths of first
striking the ground, would he be able to play from the putting green?
No. Rule 20-2, which covers dropping and re-dropping procedures, states
that the ball must be re-dropped if it comes to rest on the putting green.
After re-dropping, if the ball again came to rest on the putting green, the
ball would have been placed at the location that it first struck the ground.
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