Webb Simpson called it a ”bad rule.” He was penalized a stroke because the ball moved as he was addressing it on the green, costing him one stroke and perhaps his first PGA Tour victory.
The U.S. Golf Association appears to agree. Vice President Thomas O’Toole said Monday there will be talks to modify the rule, with any change taking place at the start of 2012.
”If some other agency – wind or gravity – is known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied,” O’Toole said at the U.S. Open media day at Congressional Country Club.
Simpson, leading by one shot, was less than a foot from the cup at the 15th hole on Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans when the ball moved. Simpson said it was probably caused by wind, combined with relatively dry and hard greens.
Regardless, the rule as currently written offers no leeway, and the one-stroke penalty proved vital when he finished tied with Bubba Watson after 72 holes. Watson then won in a playoff.
”I better limit my comments on that rule, because I think it’s such a bad rule,” Simpson said Sunday. ”When the wind or other natural things affect the golf ball, the player shouldn’t be penalized.”
O’Toole said he hasn’t seen a replay of Simpson’s penalty. He said the possible change has been under consideration with the Royal & Ancient for at least seven years.
”This is not a reaction to something that happened yesterday,” O’Toole said.
The potential change will now be discussed in earnest over the next several months with the R&A. O’Toole sounded confident it would pass, but he stressed that ”it’s not a done deal.”
O’Toole said the change – much like the one regarding scorecards announced at this year’s Masters – is in part a result of the impeccable quality of video that is available. Television viewers can now see every little movement of the ball.
”We have to react to this,” O’Toole said. ”I think this is a better place to be than penalizing players unfairly.”
O’Toole said the change would modify Rule 18-2b and would declare that ”if it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause that ball to move, then the (penalty) does not apply.”
”Now we’ve got some latitude,” O’Toole said. ”Deeming the player to cause it to move applies in 90 percent of the situations, but it doesn’t apply sometimes. And, in that case, the exception applies and no penalty.”