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European Tour pushing rules knowledge
February 24, 2010

Dustin Johnson had to call for a ruling on consecutive shots around the fifth green in the final round at Pebble Beach. One was for relief from the grandstands, the other because his chip came to rest in a sprinkler head.

“I get a little confused,” Johnson said. “It’s always good to get an official, so there’s no question about it.”

But what if the official is nowhere around and the group has to wait until one arrives?

The European Tour has a new policy this year aimed at making sure players know common rules, and encouraging them not to call for a ruling on the most routine drops.

Europe’s top two officials, John Paramor and Andy McFee, have finished making a DVD that educates players on simple rulings. If they deem that a player has asked for a ruling he should know on his own, the player has three tournaments to attend a seminar (and watch the DVD) before he can enter another event.

“It’s for when you get a guy asking for what we consider a frivolous ruling,” said McFee, the senior referee in Europe.

And what is frivolous?

McFee described some examples as what kind of penalty drop is allowed for unplayable lies and hazards (yellow and red), along with free relief from a sprinkler head or a cart path.

“They need to know how to take relief from a cart path,” McFee said. “Most golfers around the world know this, and our players should not be exempt from that.”

McFee said at Abu Dhabi last month, a player he declined to identify called for an official, who was several holes away. When the official arrived, the player said, “Is it two club lengths if I declare an unplayable?”

“We now have the right to make him go to the rules seminar,” McFee said.

In Johnson’s case with the sprinkler, McFee saw no problem. He said some players can go blank on the rules, and even the highest-rated USGA officials are not immune from that (Trey Holland at Oakmont in 1994).

As for relief from the bleachers? McFee said anything involving a temporary immovable object can be tricky, and they would not consider a ruling that involves a TIO to be frivolous.

He said the policy is aimed at all players, with emphasis on the younger players who are reluctant to take drops on their own.

“I don’t think it’s something we’ll use very often,” McFee said. “But it’s there.”

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