Video-enhanced penalties removed from golf rules

By Kyle Porter | Golf Writer

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The USGA has issued a new rule that will begin to take golf fans out of the equation when it comes to being able to assess penalties on professional golfers.

You all remember the situation Tiger Woods faced at the BMW Championship where his ball moved in the woods, he said he didn't see it happen, but a rogue photographer caught the entire thing on film (see above), and Woods was later penalized.

It was one of the catalysts for Brandel Chamblee implying that Tiger Woods was a cheater in his end-of-season grades on Golf.com.

The new rule, though not a direct response to that incident, would have been nice for Woods to have in place about two months ago.

The new rule, called Decision 18/4, states the following:

"Where enhanced technological evidence shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time."

Essentially the USGA and R&A are saying "if you (the golfer) didn't see it then it didn't happen, even if we have video evidence."

The rule will go into place on January 1, 2014.

That's pretty interesting to me. And it's definitely a first step to totally removing the entire call-in culture that was spotlighted during Woods' drop-gate at the 15th hole at this year's Masters.

That has to be the next step for golf. They wouldn't have issued this ruling otherwise.

In fact, this ruling is taking Decision 33-7/4.5 one step further, as Ryan Lavner of Golf Channel pointed out.

That rule "authorized a committee to waive the disqualification penalty if a player was unaware of a rules breach that was identified only after consulting HD video."

But as of now viewers can still call in for things like the Woods ball drop at the Masters. Just not for a ball that has moved.

The USGA and R&A issued a joint statement saying that they would continue to do research regarding fans and anyone other than a golfer or golf official being able to note a penalty.

"In recent years, the rapid development of video technology, such as HDTV, digital recording and on-line visual media, has brought a new level of scrutiny to Rules issues arising in elite golf tournaments.

"Beyond these Decisions, as part of the 2016 Rules review, the Rules of Golf Committees will be discussing other issues concerning the possible effect of video technology on the application of the Rules to the playing of the game, such as the necessary degree of precision in marking, lifting and replacing a ball, the estimation of a reference point for taking relief, and the overall question of the appropriate penalty for returning an incorrect score card where the player was unaware that a penalty had been incurred."

That's a really wordy way of saying, just like football, basketball, and baseball have said "we have no idea what to do here."

I don't mind fans being able to call in but the problem with it, and the reason that rule will eventually be eradicated, is that it creates an uneven playing field.

All 68 or 74 or 80 (?) of Tiger Woods' shots are shown on TV every round. That's a fact. He sells and TV networks sell him. Not so for Harris English or Charles Howell or Kevin Streelman. Those guys might have one or two or six shots shown for their entire round.

Because of this there's more of an opportunity for Woods to be "caught." That's not a fair situation and likely a precedent the USGA and R&A want to reset.

Decision 18/4 is the forerunner to completely removing rules decisions from folks not inside the ropes and while that might not be the just thing to do, it's definitely going to happen.

I just hope we don't have any more major incidents (at majors) between now and when that ruling takes place.

Other rules announced by the USGA and R&A on Tuesday include the following:

• The .... Players can now access weather reports on their cell phones (I can't believe they couldn't before!)

• Players will be allowed to walk forward approximately 50 yards to determine the ball's location without forfeiting their right to play a provisional.

• Extra illustrations were provided to show if a ball is embedded.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

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