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golf rules controversy

Was that this year? The most controversial rules debates of 2023

Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas all got caught up in rules issues in 2023, so we take a look at why they were so significant…

 

Time flies by when you’re having to talk about golf rules disputes.

The professional game was littered with them in 2023 and some of them feel so far, yet so recent.

Patrick Reed’s tree-gate? That was this year, believe it or not.

But which rules controversy sticks in your memory from the previous 12 months? We’ve looked back and listed them:

Rules of golf 2023: The biggest controversies

Tree-gate and Patrick Reed

When in the heat of battle with Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic, Patrick Reed hit his ball into a palm tree on hole 17 at Emirates Golf Club.

Reed identified the ball with a description of its markings and the chief referee, Kevin Feeney, was satisfied that the ball they saw in the tree belonged to Reed using binoculars.

Footage of the ruling made waves on social media, especially when Golf Channel slowed down the video which appeared to show the ball going into a different tree.

After two on-course referees and “several” course marshals saw the ball go into the tree, the former Masters champion took unplayable relief and completed the hole, as opposed to losing his ball and needing to head back to the tee.

It was certainly a dramatic way to begin 2023.

Collin Morikawa replacing his ball at the Masters

During the Masters, a short clip of Collin Morikawa adjusting his ball on the 6th green at Augusta emerged.

This threw social media into a frenzy, but a longer video showed his ball move back as he addressed it. You can refer to Rule 13.1d to decipher this situation.

A player isn’t penalised for accidentally moving a ball or ball marker on the green or if a ball is moved by natural forces. It can be returned to the spot or the estimated spot if unknown.

Morikawa also tweeted to reassure his fans that he plays by the rules:

“Ball moved as I addressed it, so I threw the coin down in no specific place, replaced the ball to the original spot and then moved my marker to the original spot (from where I threw it). I play by the rules, I promise.”

golf rules controversy

Was Rory McIlroy’s US Open drop correct?

Rory McIlroy was given a free drop after his ball became embedded above a bunker on the 14th hole at LACC during the US Open.

Many fans on social media questioned if the ball was embedded at all. The Northern Irishman took relief and made a bogey.

Since the incident, the USGA said the rules procedure was carried out incorrectly. Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s governance officer, explained the spot from which the point of relief was measured was incorrect.

“The nearest point of relief was misidentified; it should have been directly behind the ball,” he said.

“If you look at where the ball was embedded, there was a grassy area below and that should have been the starting point.”

Read more here.

Out-of-bounds blunders for Pieters at The Open

On the 8th hole at Royal Liverpool, Thomas Pieters hit his tee shot left and said officials thought it to be out of bounds.

Pieters said he had to go back and hit again, but the first ball was later found. Having played another ball under penalty of stroke and distance, he made a double-bogey six.

Later on, the Belgian hit his second shot on 18 to the right and close to the boundary. He hit again without declaring a provisional.

Again, he found his original ball within bounds but was forced to abandon it. He made another double-bogey which contributed to shooting 80.

You can read more about it here.

Justin Thomas’ accidental Ryder Cup drop-kick

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were playing against Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood in the Saturday foursomes of the Ryder Cup, and the US pair were buried in the rough on hole 6 at Marco Simone.

They failed to get embedded ball relief from the official, so Thomas took a swipe and his foot made contact with the ball as he lost balance.

Rule 11.1a says if a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person, then there is no penalty. There was no suggestion Thomas could’ve deliberately moved the ball with his feet.

Shad Tuten misses out on the PGA Tour

Shad Tuten missed out on a PGA Tour card in heartbreaking fashion – and it was all to do with the rules of golf.

Lift, clean and place was in operation at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, so in the 15th fairway, Tuten picked up his ball and then placed it, but footage showed his ball moved forward.

He picked it up and placed it again a few inches to the right. According to Model Local Rule E-3 Preferred Lies, the ball needs to stay on its spot and when it doesn’t, Rule 14.2e states the player must try again.

Only if it fails to stay on its spot again can a player place it on the “nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest”.

When Tuten moved it slightly to the right, and not on the exact spot, followed by making a stroke, then he is in breach of the rules.

His 74 became a 76 and he moved out of the places that would’ve earned him PGA Tour starts in 2024.

“It was an extremely traumatic ordeal for me and my family,” he told Any Given Monday.

“The place where we had to sign the scorecards was on the second level of the clubhouse and when you come out of the clubhouse out of scoring, it’s on this deck.

“The hardest part about the entire deal was standing on that porch and seeing the 30 to 40 people that were coming up to congratulate me and having to break the news to them.”

Which was the best golf rules controversy of 2023? Tell us on X!

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