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  • Alistair Tait

Keeping the rules chancers in check

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

Some players have a lot of brass neck when it comes to the rules of golf. Thankfully it’s just a minority.

Bryson DeChambeau seems to have joined that minority.

The American tried to influence a rules official into giving him a favourable ruling in the opening round of the WGC–FedEx St Jude Invitational. Well, “bully” would be too strong a word, wouldn’t it?

DeChambeau hit his tee shot left of the 16th fairway. That’s when he called for a referee.

“It looks like an ant hole, or ant area,” DeChambeau told PGA Tour rules official Ken Tackett.

Tackett disagreed. When DeChambeau pointed to an ant, Tackett said:

“I don’t see any fire ants in the sense that it would be a dangerous situation.”

DeChambeau replied:

“Is it an animal hole?”

Again Tackett disagreed and told DeChambeau he needed to play his shot. DeChambeau ended up making a double bogey.

Tackett was the rules official who disagreed with DeChambeau at The Memorial when the beefed up American tried to claim his ball was in bounds. DeChambeau recorded a 10 on that occasion.

The six-time PGA Tour winner practically admitted he was hoping for a favourable ruling. He said:

“There was discolored dirt and I saw a couple red ants there and I was thinking, hmm, anthill, may get something or what not. I asked (the rules official) and he was like, ‘Well, it’s got to be, you know, kind of endangering you.’ So there was just discussion there and he didn’t think it was necessary for a drop.
“I’m always going to respect the officials and go, ‘OK, no issue, that’s fine.’ Didn’t help that I had a really, really bad lie, too—I had two twigs lodged in between my ball. Is what it is.”

He didn’t appear fine about the issue as it was playing out live.

Players trying to influence rules officials isn't new, especially some “name” players. Seve Ballesteros was a master at it.

Seve once tried to get relief from the left of Augusta National’s 10th fairway during the Masters. He claimed he was entitled to relief because he was on a spectator walkway.

A rules official initially agreed with Seve. Playing companion Ken Green disagreed and called for a second opinion.

Enter Sir Michael Bonallack from stage left. The five-time Amateur champion and then R&A secretary took all of two seconds to make his judgement. He got within about five yards of Seve’s ball, looked at the situation and simply said:

“Play it Seve.”

Bonallack then turned and left the scene as quickly as he’d arrived. It seemed pretty obvious Seve was pushing the envelope. Sir Michael was having none of it.

Green said:

“I didn’t want him getting a free drop because of who he was.”

Remember Seve having a heated discussion with John Paramor during the final round of the Masters? Paramor was having none of Seve’s claim there hole was caused by a burrowing animal near his ball.

How many favourable rulings has Tiger Woods received? Remember the huge boulder in the desert deemed a “loose impediment” because a group of fans could move the boulder away? Pull the other one!

Or the way Tiger was able to continue in the 2013 Masters despite signing for a wrong score in the previous round after a wrong drop on the 15th hole. That ruling led David Lynn to quip that if David Lynn had taken a wrong drop and signed his scorecard he’d have been on his way home to Manchester. But since it was Tiger Woods…. Well, the green jackets weren’t going to chuck Tiger out of the Masters, were they?

Chancers trying to get favourable rulings happens at club level too. Most of the people we play with you can basically give the thumbs up to if they say they think they should get relief. Happened to me yesterday. My playing companion said he was in a rabbit scrape and asked me if I wanted to take a look. I told him no, to go ahead and take a drop. His word was good enough for me. However, we’ve all played with people who chance their luck. Then we should get involved. I certainly do.

Former European Tour pro Gary Evans mused on twitter that the boy Bryson perhaps needs to brush up on the laws of the game.

“Having witnessed @b_dechambeau with rules officials on TV recently, maybe he should spend some of his scientific research time on the deepening his knowledge of the rules of golf? His recent attempts to get free relief have been embarrassing.”

Evans was no shrinking violet when it came to challenging the chancers during his long European Tour career. He added:

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again...Tour Players should have to pass a Tour Rules Exam in order to have a Tour Card. … It would speed up play and stop people from trying it on to get an advantage.”

It wouldn’t stop some from trying to gain an advantage. That’s a personality trait, not a rules issue. It’s why we need strong characters like Bonallack, Paramor, Tackett and other rules officials to lay down the law. We all need to keep the chancers in check.

#JustSaying: "One of these days I'm going to write a book on drops. That ought to sell. The shot's becoming more popular than putting." Jimmy Demaret

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