The new Rules of Golf were a significant part of the first tournament on the PGA Tour of 2019.
We saw Bryson DeChambeau, among others, putt with the flagstick in numerous times, players adopting the new knee-height drop rule and learned that a better understanding of the modernized rules may have possibly saved Dustin Johnson two strokes on Friday, but Webb Simpson was the first player to truly benefit from the rules changes.
Playing the par-5 fifth hole during the third round, the reigning Players Champion found some thick native grass near the green with his second shot. Unable to find his ball initially, the search began. In the course of looking for his ball, Simpson stepped on a clump of grass and his ball popped out.
Under the new Rules of Golf, a player no longer receives a one-stroke penalty for accidentally moving his ball.
Rule 7-4 now reads, “There is no penalty if your ball is accidentally moved by you, your opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it. If this happens, the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated).”
PGA Tour rules official Stephen Cox explained to the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson why the change to the ruling was made.
“Under the previous code where a player is searching for the ball, who is the most interested to find the ball? The player,” Cox said. “Who do we penalize? The player, who then becomes the least interested in finding the ball.”
It was not uncommon prior to the rule change to see marshals, caddies, playing partners and gallery members search for a lost ball while the player whose ball it was would stand clear in an attempt to avoid further punishment.
Simpson was able to replace his ball, hack out of the high grass and save bogey en route to a third-round 72. He would fire a Sunday 65 to move into a tie for 8th.