Chiefs put out a statement after reviewing footage of the incident involving Phachara Khongwatmai at the Hong Kong Open
Asian Tour bosses say they will “learn from this experience” after deciding a controversial dispute involving Phachara Khongwatmai at the Hong Kong Open did breach the rules.
A statement said they had carefully reviewed TV footage of the incident on the 16th hole at Hong Kong Golf Club and had “identified infractions relating to Rule 8.1”.
Thailand’s Khongwatmai was leading the tournament when he blocked his tee shot into bushes and trees right of the fairway.
What followed was a 15-minute deliberation as the player and his caddie located the ball and tried to determine whether it could be played – with a large dead branch in the way and foliage pushed and pulled in the process.
A rules official was on the scene, and playing partners Ben Campbell and former Open champion Cameron Smith raised concerns.
Now tour chiefs have retrospectively decided those actions were “infractions”.
📝A statement from the Asian Tour regarding the rules incident with Phachara Khongwatmai on the 16th hole in the final round of the Hong Kong Open on Sunday.⛳ pic.twitter.com/9uHD76z7R3
— Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) November 14, 2023
Asian Tour rules dispute: Why did tour chiefs decide there had been “infractions”?
A statement said: “The Asian Tour has reviewed the rules incident with Phachara Khongwatmai on the 16th hole in the final round of the Hong Kong Open on Sunday.
“After carefully looking at the broadcast coverage, we have identified infractions relating to Rule 8.1. A private, internal review will take place by the Asian Tour to ensure we learn from this experience and avoid a recurrence of the matter.”
Rule 8.1 covers ‘player’s actions that improve the conditions affecting the stroke’. It restricts what can be done around the lie of a player’s ball at rest, the area of intended stance and swing and the player’s line of play.
Players are not allowed to “move, bend or break any growing or attached natural object; immovable obstruction, integral object or boundary object, or tee-marker for the teeing area when playing a ball from that teeing area.”
It also restricts players moving a loose impediment or movable obstruction into position, altering the surface of the ground, removing or pressing down sand or loose soil, or removing dew, frost or water.
Khongwatmai was reported as saying to Campbell and Smith: “You guys happy? If you’re not happy, I’m not going to do it.”
But following the debate, Khongwatmai played out and made double bogey. Coming to the final hole in a three-way tie, he three-putted for bogey as Campbell birdied to win the tournament.
Speaking after the round, he said of the 16th: “I was in a very difficult situation at that moment that I couldn’t do anything. Also, there were broken trees which was an obstacle so I couldn’t step backwards to drop the ball. I had to keep trying to hit it. However, I’m satisfied with my overall performance that I can make under-par for today.”
Even though the Asian Tour have now decided there were “infractions” on the hole, if it was the referee who ruled, their decision is final. Rule 20.2a states that if a “referee authorises a player to breach a rule in error, the player will not be penalised.”
Rule 20.2d (1) says if a ruling by a referee or the committee is later found to be wrong, “the ruling will be corrected if possible under the Rules.”
But: “If it is too late to do so, the wrong ruling stands.”
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