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The Loop

Should the R&A have erased the 32 minutes of morning play?

July 18, 2015

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- At the 2012 Women's British Open at Hoylake, in the second round, play was suspended 78 minutes after the start of the round due to high winds. Rather than penalize those few players who suffered through the conditions, all scores were erased and the round started over from scratch when play resumed. It was only fair -- the governing body at the tournament, the Ladies' Golf Union, essentially admitted fault for sending the players out in the first place, and they were smart enough to realize they had an easy fix.


Saturday morning at this year's British Open, it only took 32 minutes before the R&A realized they'd made the same error. As Alex Myers wrote this morning, Louis Oosthuizen's situation symbolized the farce -- his ball moved all over the green well after he'd marked it, to the point that he and Tiger had to summon a rules official to interpret the strange situation.

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He wasn't alone. The wind cost Dustin Johnson a bogey when he couldn't mark his ball on 14 before the wind blew it down the hill, forcing Jordan Spieth to jump out of the way. It certainly didn't help Jason Day, as he bogeyed both holes he played, and Brooks Koepka attempted to mark his ball multiple times on No. 11 before he was saved by the horn. Brendon Todd was the angriest of the bunch, railing at the R&A for starting in the first place after he made two bogeys and barely made the cut. On that topic, the organization defended themselves in a statement:

"We spent an hour at the far end of the course, before play started, assessing whether the course was playable. Balls were not moving on the greens and while the conditions were extremely difficult, we considered the golf course to be playable. Gusts of wind increased in spedy 10 - 15% after play resumed. This could not be foreseen at the time that play was restarted and made a material difference to the playability of the golf course."

Spieth was overheard on the TV broadcast saying that play never should have started, and as Ryan Herrington noted, the other players weren't any happier. But let's take the R&A at its word for the moment, because even if officials were eager to avoid a Monday finish (a reality now), it's hard to imagine that they'd intentionally start a round when the ball wouldn't even sit still on the green. And anyway, the decision was made, and second-guessing couldn't solve the problem. But taking a page from the LGU's book and erasing the scores from the morning? That would have solved the problem. They only had 32 minutes of play to expunge from the record, and there was plenty of time to finish the second round even with a replay.

The difficulty here, of course, is that certain players had marked their ball either on the fairway, in the rough, and on the green, and once play resumed, those marks were gone. That would necessitate approximating their previous positions, with the aid of television footage, divots, and any other clues. That makes this situation different from the Women's British Open, when they were able to send everyone back to the first tee.

Still, any logistical difficulties pale to the injustice of the extreme conditions faced by several prominent players in those 32 disastrous minutes. You'll notice that the names mentioned above, from Johnson to Day to Spieth to Oosthuizen, are all in contention. The ill-advised morning start could end up costing one of them a major championship, and it's a shame, because this was the rare occasion when a ruling body could have engaged in some creative thinking and turned back the clock.