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LPGA meet to discuss policy changes

The LPGA Tour met two weeks ago for an annual review of its policies, and it included what commissioner Ty Votaw described as a "full airing" of an issue that comes up with regularity -- how to play in wet conditions.

The LPGA came up with lift, clean and "replace" a few years ago when the ball was picking up mud. That's slightly different from the PGA Tour, which allows its players to lift, clean and "place" the ball within one club length.

"I hope our officials didn't fall in love with that rule," U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon said at the season-ending ADT Championship in November. "A lot of times, you're replacing the ball right in front of your pitch mark, and that affects your next shot."

Pitch marks cannot be tamped down unless they are on the green.

Barb Trammel, vice president of tournament operations for the LPGA Tour, said changing the policy to get relief from a pitch mark in the fairway might be perceived as skirting the rules.

"Just to play preferred lies for that instance is not a reason do it," Trammel said.

Allowing players to put their hands on the ball is always a touchy subject. The USGA never allows that in its biggest championships. Tom Meeks, the senior director of rules and competition, is famous for calling it "lift, clean and cheat."

But the tours sometimes have no choice because of wet conditions and the need to finish a tournament that week so they can move on to the next stop. Still, some players wonder why the LPGA Tour doesn't follow the tour's lead and allow the ball to be placed within one club length.

Annika Sorenstam wants to see a policy similar to the European tour, where players lift, clean and place their balls within the size of a scorecard.

"That's just enough," Sorenstam said. "We don't have to do a club length. We're not trying to improve our lies, we just do it to clean the ball. Mud is so unpredictable."

Votaw declined to discuss which, if any, policies were amended. He said the panel looked at alternatives to lift, clean and replace and "there were issues pro and con for each."

Trammel added, "When we started this, players thought it was great because we were playing more by the rules. As time goes on, we're getting more comments about going back to placing the ball. If we do make a change, it would be based on what we feel we can reasonably do within the language of the rules."

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