Golf is slowly coming to its senses with a rules modification that addresses the application of technology in determining minuscule movement of balls.
Tiger Woods was the latest victim of HD camera technology that established beyond the capability of the naked eye that his ball had moved and come to rest in a different position when attempting to remove a twig at the BMW Championship in September.
It was one of four rules controversies that claimed Woods this year, most prominently at the Masters, where he replaced his ball incorrectly after hitting the pin and finding water at the 15th hole. Woods was punished retrospectively and a penalty added after he had signed for his card, which is a straight disqualification ordinarily. But this was waived on the grounds that a mistake was made by the Masters competition committee, who should have notified him of his error in time.
The rules committees of the R&A and the USGA have introduced a revision from 1 January next year which states: “Where enhanced technological evidence shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time.” Questionable decisions will be referred to a separate panel who will determine where the line is to be drawn.
The R&A will continue to allow evidence brought by armchair viewers or spectators on the grounds that it is in the best interests of the game that all available evidence is used in order to reach the correct decision. They acknowledge, however, that the higher-ranked players are under greater scrutiny because of the time they spend on camera but on balance accept that as a part of the modern game.
To a degree, this ought to placate Woods, who feels the intrusion of cameras weighs unfairly against him and others whose every move on the golf course is scrutinised way beyond the experience of the majority of the field.
Events at the BMW Championship were typical. After overshooting the green on the first at the start of his second round his ball flew into the undergrowth beneath a canopy of trees, coming to rest among loose leaves and associated debris. Woods attended to his lie as best he could picking at the debris, during which his ball moved a fraction.
He deemed that it had returned to its original position, but HD super slo-mo technology proved it moved a fraction and came to rest in a slightly different position, not that it made any difference to the shot he was about to undertake. He was made aware of the breach in the scorers’ hut where a two-shot penalty was applied, much to his disgust.