Rules of golf again fool pros, as Rory McIlroy and Joaquin Niemann were punished
Rules of golf again fool pros, as Rory McIlroy and Joaquin Niemann were punished

Golf rules are hard to understand, even for people who know them inside and out. But it’s always strange when top pros and their caddies make mistakes that look like they should be pretty easy to fix. Especially when it comes to taking a drop.

Rory McIlroy and Joaquin Niemann were the most recent examples.

McGilroy messed up in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He was playing at Spyglass Hill. On the par-5 seventh hole, his tee shot landed in thick grass under a pine tree. Because McIlroy couldn’t play the shot, he picked “back-on-the-line” relief, which let him go as far back on the line as he wanted to take a drop with a one-shot penalty.

Read More: Rory McIlroy called Jordan Spieth during a fight at LIV Golf and then deleted himself from a group chat.

But McIlroy dropped his ball to the right of the line. That used to be okay (one club length), but that changed at the start of 2023. 14.3 of the rules says you have to drop on the line. He got two more penalty strokes for it in the end.

“I wasn’t aware that that rule changed again in 2023, so I took a drop thinking of the 2019 rules when everything (the Rules of Golf underwent a massive overhaul) was sort of changed, not knowing that the rule was changed again in 2023,” McIlroy stated. “So I got a two-stroke penalty there.”

To McIlroy’s credit, the rule has been changed twice in the last four years. You don’t know if you don’t know.

Read more: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are going to be sued.

Niemann’s case at the LIV Golf Mayakoba event seems worse. He should have known better, and he’s lucky to have won a playoff over Sergio Garcia.

Niemann had to get out of the way of a cart path at the 13th hole during the second round on Saturday. This was against the rules, and officials were later told about it. He took two club lengths of relief instead of one. He was found to have dropped outside of the one-club limit after talking to Niemann on Sunday morning and getting his story. Rule 14.7a said that they had to take two shots.

That rule should be clear to any pro. If you need to drop the ball and don’t want to be penalized, give yourself one club length. This is what Niemann did. Most of the time, two club lengths are given for moves like taking a drop from a penalty area.

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