February 19, 2010
While Cape Region golfers patiently wait for all the snow to melt, they might as well think about what part of their golf game they’d like to work on for the next season, if they ever have the chance. For me, that would be the short game from just off the green.
If my ball sits on the fringe, or lying up against the rough on the outside edge of the fringe, I’m fine. I don’t have any problems putting on somewhat longer but still short grass, and I enjoy using a bellied wedge to bunt the ball toward the hole.
In addition, and thanks to a great lesson from Shawnee Country Club’s pro, Devon Peterson, I’m no longer wretched when hitting out of a sand trap. What used to be a nightmare scenario is now just fun.
I wish I could say the same for chipping and pitching shots from beyond the greenside fringe and out about five to ten yards. That way sadness lies, for the most part.
I’m not alone with this part of my golfing non-excellence. In fact, last weekend’s PGA Tour event at one of my favorite places, Pebble Beach, showed two pros blowing up their good chances at winning the match on the same hole, based on the same difficulties.
I suppose that should make me feel better, but it doesn’t.
Bryce Molder is one of the newer golfers on the PGA Tour, and he was doing really well in the final round until he reached the 14th hole. His third shot on the historic par-five hole landed a little short of the green, adjacent to the front-side bunker. The hole was in its usual Sunday position, on the upper tier of the green, snuggled up on the bunker side of the tiny patch of relatively level turf.
Molder tried to putt across the edge of the green, uphill toward the hole.
The ball rolled across the green, down into a swale beyond, and nestled into wet rough under a tree. His next shot also strolled across the green, and eventually stopped near the place where his third shot ended. Molder eventually took a nine on the hole, and bounded down the leaderboard.
A few players later, Tour veteran Paul Goydos did much the same thing. This time he pitched over the bunker, with the same ugly result as Molder’s first putt. Goydos’ chip out from under the tree ran up toward the green, and then rolled back down the slope to a spot a few feet from where he stood. He also ended up with a nine.
I know just how Goydos and Molder felt, and I’m sure many of you do also.
Perhaps their experience was part of the inspiration for the Feb. 16 edition of the USGA’s Ruling of the Day. The situation is one that most of us have probably seen happen:
Q: After playing his ball out of a greenside bunker, the player smoothes his footprints. He then discovers that his ball is in another bunker on the other side of the green. He plays out of the second bunker and the ball comes to rest in the smoothed area of the first bunker. What is the ruling?
A: No penalty was incurred. The player did not smooth his footprints in the first bunker while his ball still lay in that bunker — see Exception 2 to Rule 13-4.
If, however, the player failed to extricate his ball from the first bunker with his first stroke and had smoothed his footprints while his ball still lay in that bunker, he would have incurred a penalty if the act of smoothing his footprints had caused a breach of Rule 13-2 with respect to his next stroke. (Revised)
In this case, the golfer didn’t try to improve his lie in the bunker, which is the point of the rule in question.
It was bad enough that the player found himself in the same bunker the second time, without also hitting him with an unnecessary penalty stroke.