Ernie Els penalising Himself for taking (unfair?) relief
Another interesting rules incident happened at Wentworth on the same day but, this time, no official was involved. Having reached the rough beside the green with his second stroke on the par-5 12th hole, Ernie Els was unsure as to whether his ball had plugged.
Rule 25-2 only provides relief for an embedded ball in a ‘closely mown area’, but, as is now the norm in most Pro competitions, the European Tour extends this relief by a Local Rule to “through the green”.
Els was aware that he was entitled to lift his ball to determine whether it was embedded, which would entitle him to a relief drop, so he correctly announced his intention to his fellow competitors that he was going to mark and lift his ball to examine the lie.
He quickly determined that the ball had not been embedded, so relief was not available. The Rules require that the ball must then be replaced with a fellow-competitor being given the opportunity to observe the replacement.
Despite having to chip from the rough, Els made an excellent contact with his ball and watched incredulously as the ball rolled across the green and into the hole for an eagle 3. The interview that he gave after the round explains what happened next;
“I just felt uncomfortable by the way the ball came out. The ball came out way too good, so I felt I didn’t quite probably put it (back) exactly where I should have. Under the Rules, you try and put it back the way you think it should be, but I still felt uncomfortable with it, so we took a two-shot penalty. I know deep down the ball wasn’t quite where it should be and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
So, it was the fact he made perfect contact with his ball, resulting in his chip shot being holed, that led him to believe that he could not possibly have replaced the ball in exactly the same lie as to where it had been embedded and, although no-one else was doubting the replacement, including a European Tour Official who he consulted after the round, he ultimately felt that the best resolution was for him to self-impose a penalty of two strokes, under Rule 20-7, for playing from a wrong place. Kudos to a great golfer who is also a great example to those of us that love the game.
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