Ball movement rule reviewed

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BETHESDA, Md. --- Webb Simpson called it a "bad rule." He was penalized a stroke Sunday at the Zurich Classic because the ball moved as he was addressing it on the green, costing him a stroke and perhaps his first PGA Tour victory.

Webb Simpson was penalized a stroke when his ball moved on the green as he was addressing it. It might have cost him a win.   Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
Webb Simpson was penalized a stroke when his ball moved on the green as he was addressing it. It might have cost him a win.

The U.S. Golf Association appears to agree. Vice President Thomas O'Toole said Monday that there will be talks to modify the rule, with any change taking place at the start of 2012.

"If some other agency -- wind or gravity -- is known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied," he said at the U.S. Open media day at Congressional Country Club.

Simpson, leading by a shot, was less than a foot from the cup at the 15th hole when the ball moved. He said it was probably caused by wind, combined with relatively dry and hard greens.

The rule as currently written offers no leeway, and Simpson finished tied with Bubba Watson after 72 holes. Watson then won in a playoff.

"I better limit my comments on that rule, because I think it's such a bad rule," Simpson said Sunday. "When the wind or other natural things affect the golf ball, the player shouldn't be penalized."

O'Toole said he hasn't seen a replay of the penalty. He said the possible change has been under consideration with the Royal & Ancient for at least seven years.

"This is not a reaction to something that happened yesterday," he said.

The change will be discussed in earnest over the next several months with the R&A. O'Toole sounded confident it would pass but stressed that "it's not a done deal."

O'Toole said the change -- much like the one regarding scorecards announced at this year's Masters Tournament -- is in part a result of the high TV picture quality now available.

O'Toole said the change would modify Rule 18-2b and would declare that "if it was known or virtually certain that the player did not cause that ball to move, then the (penalty) does not apply."

"Now we've got some latitude," he said. "Deeming the player to cause it to move applies in 90 percent of the situations, but it doesn't apply sometimes. And, in that case, the exception applies and no penalty."


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