Starting Jan. 1, any player whose ball moves through no fault of his own — by, say, wind — will no longer be penalized a stroke. Amazing! You're not going to get tagged for something that was in no possible way your fault! After a player addresses the ball, he can't be socked with a penalty "when it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move."
This is one of those rules so against basic sanity that you wonder how it could have survived for as long as it did. But we'll spare you our rant on the evils of narrowminded traditionalist thinking here, because the R&A, which oversees golf rules with the assistance of the USGA, actually made the right decision here.
Of course, it's too late to help Webb Simpson, who saw a potential victory at this past May's Zurich Classic slip away when his ball moved on the 15th green. Simpson would go on to lose in a playoff to Bubba Watson. There's no guarantee that he would have won if he'd been given that stroke back, but if he had, he'd have amassed enough coin to stay ahead of Luke Donald in the 2011 money list standings. And one can imagine that losing a stroke through no fault of your own would have a bit of an effect on your psyche.
The R&A also modified a rule that makes more sense but has an even more draconian penalty. Previously, players who missed their tee time were disqualified from a tournament. You've now got five minutes to get to the tee with only a two-stroke (or, in match play, loss-of-hole) penalty.
See, golf? We all can coexist together with some reasonable rules. Now, ditch that absurd signing-a-wrong-scorecard one and we'll all be happy.
(Photo info: That's Fredrik Andersson Hed from the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic. Same principle applies.)