Another week, another eyebrow-raising rules debate. This week at the Zurich Classic, it was Webb Simpson, who fell victim to the dreaded "ball-can't-move-after-address" rule on hole 15 and was penalized a stroke. Simpson would eventually fall in a playoff, so, yeah, the ruling had a bit of a dramatic effect. But was it fair?
To be clear, here's the deal: Once a golfer addresses the ball on the green (no, not "Hey! How are ya?", but gets in the ready-to-putt position), if the ball moves, it's a stroke. No matter if the ball moves because the golfer taps it or because of a stray gust of wind, boom, stroke.
"The problem with the rule is you get greens like this that they get pretty bare, almost like this table top, wind's blowing," Simpson said afterward. "Balls can wiggle and move so easily."
Simpson was looking at a five-inch putt, a mere tap-in, but when he went to address the ball, he saw it move "about a quarter- or half an inch." Knowing full well that there was somebody out there with a hi-def TV and the PGA Tour on speed dial, Simpson called over a rules official, who levied the penalty.
"The unfortunate thing, and the reason I don't think it's a good rule, is [that] golf is supposedly the last gentleman's game," he said. "There is so much on the player to call the penalty on themselves. When wind or other natural things affect the golf ball, the player shouldn't be penalized."
This isn't the first time Simpson has been victimized by this rule; he got tagged with the same violation in the final round of the 2009 Bob Hope. A gust of wind moved his ball, and there you go.
Simpson waved off the usual "good job" praises for calling the penalty on himself, noting that he didn't necessarily care if it gained him respect. "I'd like to gain fans in a different way," he said. "But I've talked to a couple rules officials about the rule, and I'm on the [Players' Advisory Committee] Board this year, so next meeting I'll be heavily addressing this rule."
That's a meeting we'd love to hear, especially the part where Simpson yells, "This is some bull-" ... well, it'll be an interesting meeting, we'll say that. And with good reason; if it's obvious that the player did nothing to make the ball move, then no penalty is necessary. Anything else is typical golf overregulation.