New rules benefit Webb Simpson after he steps on ball at Kapalua

January 6, 2019

The updated Rules of Golf are in full effect at the Sentry Tournament of Champions this week in Hawaii, and Webb Simpson is among the players to have benefited from the changes.

At the par-5 5th hole at Kapalua, Simpson found trouble. After a 262-yard drive, Simpson left his second shot in the thick rough just shy of the green. Unable to find his ball, Simpson stepped on a clump of grass and out popped his ball.

Fortunately for the 21st-ranked player in the world, the new Rules of Golf deemed that Simpson does not receive a penalty for his ball reappearing out of the weeds. Before 2019, Simpson would have been handed a one-stroke penalty. But under Rule 7-4, there is now no penalty if a ball is accidentally moved by a player, his or her opponent, or anyone else while searching for it.

“Under the previous code where a player is searching for the ball, who is the most interested to find the ball? The player,” Stephen Cox, a PGA Tour rules official, said to the Associated Press. “Who do we penalize? The player, who then becomes the least interested in finding the ball.”

One example of when the old rule reared its ugly head came last year during the first round of the U.S. Open. After Phil Mickelson hit an approach shot into thick grass, Lefty couldn’t find his ball. Fearing a one-shot penalty, Mickelson called on a marshal to go in and find the ball for him. The marshal found his ball, but there was no relief provided to Mickelson.

Now, players don’t have to sweat it out when their ball buries itself in deep grass. And Simpson was the first Tour player to benefit from this rule change.

After finding his ball, Simpson hit his third shot over the green and finished the hole with a bogey. He finished his third round at Kapalua at one-under 72, which included two bogeys and three birdies. He sits in 17th at five-under through three rounds and 12 shots back of leader Gary Woodland.