The PGA Tour rescinded the two-shot penalty given to Justin Rose before his final round Sunday in The Players Championship, changing its mind to say sophisticated TV technology was the only way to determine the violation.
Rose was given a reprieve by an addition in January to the "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" that waives a penalty if the slightest movement of a golf ball can only be detected by enhanced technology. It was the first time Decision 18/4 was used.
"I didn't know that this new recall was in place," Rose said after closing with a 3-under 69.
Rose was penalized after the third round when he addressed a chip shot off the 18th green, and suddenly backed away. Rose said he didn't think the ball had moved from its original position, even after consulting with playing partner Sergio Garcia and seeing a replay on the video board. Only after his round, when he met with officials and watched a third television angle zoom in on the ball, was it clear that it moved ever so slightly.
He was penalized under Rule 18-2b — one shot for the ball moving at address, another for returning it to its original position.
His 71 was changed to a 73, and he went left the course seven shots out of the lead. About an hour before he teed off Sunday, he was back to where he was. Because it was too late to adjust the tee times, Rose started his final round more than an hour before the other players on the same score of 7-under 209.
Rose was within two shots of the leaders at the turn until three straight bogeys. Rose closed with back-to-back birdies and finished at 10-under 278.
"We feel like we did the right thing here," said Mark Russell, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour said in a statement the incident had been reviewed because Decision 18/4 had never been used.
"The Rules Committee reopened the incident and focused on how much the use of sophisticated technology played a part in making the original ruling," the statement said. "After that review, it was determined that the only way to confirm whether and how much the ball in fact changed position was to utilize sophisticated technology."
Russell said the tour consulted Grant Moir from the Royal & Ancient and Thomas Pagel of the USGA before deciding to apply the new decision.
Decision 18/4 waives the penalty if a ball movement is not "reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time" and required enhanced technology, such as HDTV. The example often cited by rules officials is when Peter Hanson had a double-hit that could not be detected except through HD in super slow-motion.
One reason cited for penalizing him in the first place was the way Rose backed away from the shot, aware that there might have been movement. Rose maintained he did not think the ball moved until seeing the close-up view that he said was magnified so much "the golf ball looked like a Lego ball."
"I was willing to accept the way things played out last night, and under 50 times magnification, you could argue that there was a tiny bit of a roll toward the toe (of the club)," Rose said. "I'm talking a hair or a millimeter or a quarter dimple or whatever it might be."
Russell did not made clear what triggered their decision to review a ruling that had already been made. He described sophisticated technology as "HD zoomed in."
"It was such a slight move that it was not discernible by the naked eye," Russell said. "He didn't know. He knew something happened when he grounded his club and felt like he pressed the grass down. And it came right back. Everything went down and then the grass went down and the ball came back up. He knew something happened, he backed away from that, but it took something really zoomed in that was not seen on regular television to determine if the ball did indeed move. And it did."
Rose said it was "interesting" that Decision 18/4 was not mentioned Saturday night as he met with officials. He said he only learned about it through comments he was getting on Twitter, and when he saw the decision, it sounded exactly like what had happened to him.
"We have never had this tool before that we could apply," Russell said. "We asked for this and we feel like that this is the first time this has ever been used and we feel like this is exactly why this decision is in there. … I think he deserved exactly what he received under the rules."
Rose said he wasn't going to argue with the officials Saturday night that he would happily go along with whatever they decided.
"I'm certainly surprised it's overturned," he said. "Very rarely is that ever the case. Never, ever the case. I'm not sure."