Rules Junkie: Kevin Na’s Ball-Marking Question



PGA Tour pros’ recent hypersensitivity on the greens brought about rules question during the very first round of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season. On Thursday at the Safeway Open, Kevin Na called in a rules official to ask about the movement of his ball when he was attempting to mark it. 

Since Na’s actions did not cause the ball to move, Rule 20-1 (Lifting and Marking) is taken under review. The rule states:

If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball under a Rule or marking its position, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of or lifting the ball.

However, upon quick review, Pruitt reassessed the situation, stating that Na had not caused the ball to move in the act of marking the ball. Instead, the ball moved as Na was preparing to mark the ball. Therefore, the ball was in play when it moved, and Na was to play the ball from its new position. 

A ball “in play” is described as follows

A ball is “in play” as soon as the player has made a stroke on the teeing ground. It remains in play until it is holed, except when it is lost, out of bounds or lifted, or another ball has been substituted, whether or not the substitution is permitted; a ball so substituted becomes the ball in play. 

Knowing he had not caused the ball to move, saying it rolled because of an “uneven surface,” Na was not under the jurisdiction of Rule 18 (Ball at Rest Moved). The differentiation of Na’s question focussed around whether or not his attempt to begin the action of marking fell under Rule 20-1, or if the ball was simply “in play” at that time. 

Were the movement of the ball deemed to have been in the act of marking, he would have had to replace the ball to its previous spot. Since the ball was simply deemed “in play,” Na played his next stroke from the place where the ball came to rest.

Neither ruling in this instance would carry a stroke penalty. However, if he did play the ball from the wrong place, he would incur a penalty and that’s why he called in a rules official for clarification. 

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Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie or email your question to chris@swingbyswing.com and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.

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