By Lew Blakey
College players have always made their mark in the US Open and perhaps the most important occasion was when Jack Nicklaus won the Championship in 1962 while still a student at Ohio State University. More recently, the 2009 winner, Lucas Glover is only a few years removed from Clemson University and the 2010 winner, Graeme McDowell, is only a few years from playing for the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Although not winning, both Russell Henley, a rising senior from the University of Georgia, and Scott Langley of the University of Illinois, made the cut and finished tied for 16th. Both were also members of the 2010 United States Palmer Cup Team.
The Open is not only a test of golfing ability but also of the Rules of Golf. For the latter reason, each group is accompanied by a USGA official who is available to answer questions about the Rules and to prevent unwarranted penalties if possible. Most of the questions are usually basic but under the pressures of the Open a player often needs reinforcement before taking action under the Rules.
Here are some of the questions from this year’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links:
On the par-3 5th hole, a player’s tee shot came to rest against a greenside television cable in such a position that the ball might move if the cable was moved. The player asked if there would be a penalty if he moved the cable and the ball moved. The answer from Rule 24-1 is that there would be no penalty, provided that the movement of the ball was directly attributable to the removal of the cable.
On the par-5 7th hole, a player’s second shot entered the lateral water hazard to the right and short of the putting green. The ball came to rest in a hole just a foot or so inside the hazard. The player took relief under Rule 26-1, the water hazard Rule, and dropped another ball but the ball bounced forward towards the hole when dropped. The player asked if he was required to re-drop the ball. Although the dropped ball lay nearer the hole than its original position in the hazard, it was not nearer the hole than the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. Thus, he was required to play the ball as it lay when dropped. Re-dropping according to Rule 20-2c was not required in this instance.
On the par-4 8th hole, a player struck his second shot short of carrying the long chasm marked as a water hazard leading from the fairway to the putting green. The ball clearly came to rest in the hazard short of the putting green in a precarious side-hill lie. The player asked if he could play a provisional ball in case his ball was unplayable. The answer was no as Rule 27-2 only permits a provisional ball for one that may be lost outside of a water hazard or may be out of bounds.
On the par-4 13th hole, a player’s ball came to rest in the middle of the left fairway bunker against a flat series of boards that were provided as firm footing for someone going from one side of the bunker to the other. The player considered that the boards were a danger to his swing as his follow through would strike the boards and because of this he was entitled to relief outside the bunker. The answer came from Rule 24-2 that he was entitled to relief without penalty but that the ball must be dropped in the bunker. He could also take relief outside the bunker but under penalty of one stroke.
These situations are not uncommon and college players should know the correct ruling when they arise even in a pressure packed situation like the US Open.