February 28, 2018

Rules of Golf - More Penalties for Lexi

Poor Lexi Thompson was in another rules situation that cost her solo second.

The ladies were in Thailand this past week for the Honda LPGA and nearly all of the top ranked players competed. Lexi Thompson shot a 66 (-6) in the first round and was tied for the lead. In the second round she was playing great and then she reached the 15th hole where she unknowingly broke a rule of golf. You do remember Lexi's run-in with the rules last year don't you? We've written about the four penalty strokes that cost her a major championship twice (article 1 - article 2).

On the 15th hole in Thailand Lexi's drive found the rough and was a couple yards behind a large Honda advertisement sign that was on her line of play and possibly interfered with her area of intended swing. Lexi and her caddie walked up to the sign and attempted to remove it, and then two security guards jogged up to help. After the guards removed the sign, Lexi was able to play without interference and made a par on the hole.

Was there a problem with her allowing the guards to remove the sign for her? To answer that question we must find out what the sign is in the Rules of Golf. Since it was man-made and located on the course (not out of bounds), the sign is an obstruction; however, obstructions can have one of several statuses:

1) Movable Obstruction – a man-made object that can be moved without unreasonable effort, not delaying play, and not causing damage. Common examples are a rake, food wrapper, cigarette butt, someone else’s golf cart, a towel, etc.

2) Immovable Obstruction – a man-made object that is not movable. Common examples are a paved cart path, sprinkler head, irrigation box, covered shelter, etc.

3) Integral Part of the Course – an obstruction that the Committee has declared integral which restricts players from taking “free relief” from them. Common examples are the paved road on the 17th hole at St. Andrews (the “Road Hole”) and sometimes crushed shell cart paths.

4) Temporary Immovable Obstructions (TIO) – a non-permanent artificial object that is often erected in conjunction with a competition and is fixed or the Committee would like it to remain fixed. Common examples are grandstands, TV towers, TV or radio antennas, tents, signage, etc.
A TIO is the only type of obstruction that a player will get free relief if it interferes with their line of play.

The sign Lexi and her caddie attempted to move, and then allowed security guards to move for her, was deemed by the Committee in the Local Rules to be a temporary immovable obstruction. When she allowed it to be moved she was in breach of the rules and incurred a two-stroke penalty. The Committee became aware of the breach before she finished her round and informed her in the scoring area that she must add two strokes to the 15th hole making her par a double bogey.

Lexi would go on to finish at -21 and in a tie at second place, four strokes back of fellow Floridian Jessica Korda. If Lexi would have known the rules, or asked an Official, she could have taken free relief from the sign and saved herself a couple of penalty strokes to finish in solo second.

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