CROMWELL, Conn. — Another week, another moving golf ball.
Only Zach Johnson didn’t run up to hit it before it stopped rolling. The ball moved on its own during Friday's second round of the Travelers Championship. Thankfully this result was less controversial.
Playing his 12th hole of the day, the par-4 third at TPC River Highlands, Johnson’s 18-foot birdie putt stopped on the edge of the hole. Eventually he went to tap it in and before he put his putter down the ball dropped into the cup.
Instead of a birdie, however, Johnson was given a par because more than 10 seconds had elapsed since he’d reached the hole.
“The ball's deemed to be at rest,” said Mark Russell, the PGA Tour vice president of rules. “If it falls in after the 10 seconds, you've deemed to have holed out with your previous shot and add one.
“If that would have happened with eight seconds once he had reached the hole, he would have made a 3. But that's a specific rule dealing with ball overhanging hole.”
Rule 16-2 states that when any part of the ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional 10 seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ball has not fallen into the hole, it is deemed to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole, otherwise.
“You can see me counting,” Johnson said. “But now the ball is rolling, and I'm like, I can't touch it, it's moving. As I get closer to it, it's moving even more. So I don't want to touch a moving ball. However, even if I would have, it wouldn't have mattered. It's a four. That's all I know is it's a four.
“I could have walked really slow to the ball. But I'm not so sure I would have felt good about that.”
At the U.S. Open last week, Phil Mickelson ran after a missed putt during the third round and hit it back toward the hole while it was still moving. He was penalized two strokes.
Johnson, meanwhile, was involved in two rulings on Friday.
Playing the par-4 17th, he found water off the tee but because it was a lateral hazard was able to drop on the opposite side of the pond equidistant to the hole from the point where the ball last crossed the margin. In doing so, it put him in position to go for the green from 232 yards out.
Johnson hit a perfect hybrid to eight feet and made the putt to save par.
The shot helped keep a blemish-free round going, and he went on to shoot two-under 68 to move into a tie for second a stroke back of leader Brian Harman.
“I have no idea how far we really were, but I could just kind of guess that I'm going to get it over the water, ideally get it around there so I can get up-and-down for a five, and then that happens,” Johnson said. “I was using the lateral hazard rule to my advantage there, and drew a good lie. The beauty of that drop was if we don't have a good lie, which we obviously had a good lie in the rough, is that we could hit a wedge on the fairway and try to play for a five that way. But the lie was good enough. With a jumper lie like that, I think anything around that pin, I've got a chance to get up-and-down, and it landed, obviously, perfect.”