Rules and Rants
The ruling regarding Tiger's ball lodged in tree at Doral
En route to his 76th PGA TOUR victory, Tiger Woods came across an interesting ruling situation Saturday in Miami.
Cam Crawford, Golf Canada's Coordinator of Rules & Competitions
Published on Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 11:23AM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 01:43PM EDT
During the third round of the WGC - Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa this past Saturday, Tiger Woods found himself in an interesting rules situation. An errant tee shot on the 17th hole Saturday afternoon came to rest lodged high in a palm tree in the right-hand rough.
This situation raised a few questions among viewers, including ‘must Tiger identify the ball?’, ‘is the ball considered lost because it is in the tree?’ and ‘does the ball need to be retrieved from its resting position?’
Under Rule 12-2, it is the responsibility of each player to play the correct ball, and further it is recommended that each player put an identification mark on his/her ball (as per Rule 6-5). Given the proximity of Tiger’s ball in the tree, he was able to identify it as his, albeit through the use of binoculars with the assistance of PGA Tour Rules Official, Brad Fabel, a situation covered by Decision 27/14.
Decision 27/14 Ball in Tree Identified But Not Retrieved
Q. A player’s ball is lodged high in a tree. He identifies it with the aid of binoculars but is unable to retrieve it. Is the ball lost, in which case the player must invoke Rule 27-1?
A. No. Since the ball was identified, it was not lost – see Definition of “Lost Ball.” The player may invoke the unplayable ball Rule (Rule 28).
Since Tiger was able to identify the ball as his (there was an identification mark on his ball still visible from where it came to rest) through the use of binoculars, as well as supplemental testimony being provided by television footage and spectators within the area, the ball was not lost. Therefore, he was not subject to the provisions of Rule 27-1, which would require him to proceed under penalty of stroke and distance (requiring him to return to the tee).
With his ball identified, Tiger was able to proceed under Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable), using the point on the ground directly underneath where the ball lay in the tree, as his point of reference (See Decision 28/11).
When proceeding under Rule 28, Tiger was also able to substitute a ball, rather than having to retrieve his original ball – although a spectator did manage to retrieve his ball after the fact, obtaining a unique souvenir for himself, but not without ample effort.
By invoking Rule 28, Tiger was assessed a one stroke penalty, but avoided having to return to the tee to put his ball in play. Nonetheless, a bogey on Saturday afternoon was only a mild setback en route to his 2-stroke victory at Doral, securing his second victory of the season.
For more information on how to proceed in various Rules of Golf situations, please consult our Rules of Golf publications – for purchase in Golf Canada’s eStore, or at your local book retailer.