It was the ruling that won't die. In our coverage of the PGA Championship, Golf World noted that Mark Calcavecchia accidentally kicked his ball while searching for it but added that there was no penalty. We were wrong and corrected with a letter an issue later. Actually, as Calc confirmed to us in an email, he had found his ball, was trying to calculate his yardage, and accidentally stepped on the ball. He was assessed a one-stroke penalty.
"This is what happened at the PGA. I had already found my ball and was wandering around looking for a sprinkler head and then I stepped on my ball. It did not move, except for straight down. I called an official and was then given a 1-shot penalty. Then I dropped at the nearest spot possible to the area where I stepped on it. "
And here is the letter from the chairman of the PGA Championship Rules Committee, Mark Wilson:
Regarding E. Michael Johnson's PGA Championship Timeline of August 15 and the subsequent letter written by reader Richard Miller (Golf World 9/5/08), here are the facts of the Mark Calcavecchia ruling at the 2008 PGA Championship:
Calcavecchia did in fact step on / kick his ball on the 6th hole just short of the green as was reported. However, the ball did move and Calcavecchia received a one stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a. Calcavecchia was required to replace the ball under this Rule. Because it was not possible to determine the exact spot where the ball was to be replaced, Calcavecchia was required to drop the ball as near as possible to the place where it lay. All aspects of this situation were handled in accordance with the Rules by the PGA of America Rules Committee.
In a subsequent phone call Wilson said that two rules were really in play here. First, Rule 18-2 a covering the initial situation; then Rule 20-3 c regarding the drop.
Here are governing sections of those rules.
Rule 18-2 Ball at Rest Moved by Player, Partner, Caddy or Equipment>
a When a player's ball is in play, if: >
(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies lifts or moves it, touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing it) or causes it to move except as permitted by a Rule, or (ii) equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke. If the ball is moved, it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.
Rule 20-3 Placing and Replacing:
c. Spot Not Determinable
If it is impossible to determine the spot where the ball is to be placed or replaced:
(i) through the green, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard or on a putting green;
(ii) in a hazard, the ball must be dropped in the hazard as near as possible to the place where it lay;
(iii) on the putting green, the ball must be placed as near as possible to the place where it lay but not in a hazard.
In sum, the question was not whether the ball moved or not--Calc says it did, downward--nor whether there was a penalty--there was. The question was whether the ball should be re-placed or dropped. Normally the answer is placed, but because the player did not not know exactly where to place it, the correct procedure is to drop as near as possible to the ball's original position.