Graeme McDowell calls Valhalla 'unplayable'

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
5:13
PM ET

RainAP Photo/Mike GrollRain fell Sunday afternoon, drenching an already saturated Valhalla Golf Club at the 96th PGA.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Valhalla received an inch of rain Sunday, stopping play for nearly two hours and leaving the course a mess. For those who went out early and played a significant part of the round in pouring rain, the fact the PGA of America did not invoke "lift, clean and place" rules was a particular sore spot.

"It was unplayable this morning," said Graeme McDowell, who shot 69 to tie for 48th. "The ball should have been played up, simple. To me it's fair out there if you can play the ball up. It's not fair if you can't play the ball up. It's casual water everywhere. It's picking up mud.

"Common sense has to prevail at some point. You go out to a PGA Tour event and we wouldn't have been playing because lift, clean and place had not been implemented. I don't think we'd have been playing."

And therein lies the problem.

While "lift, clean and place" is accounted for in the rules of golf, it is almost never used at the major championships. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find an example of it ever being applied at the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship or PGA. Even if they had decided to use it, since the round didn't start using lift, clean and place, they couldn't implement it midround since it wouldn't have been applied evenly to the entire field.

"It is a wide-open question," said Ian Poulter, who shot 1-over 72 on Sunday. "But we've never played preferred lies in a major. So this is what you're going to get. You're unfortunately going to get guys that are going to mishit a lot of shots and get badly punished, and it might be someone's week to win a major, and unfortunately it isn't because of an awkward lie in a soggy fairway."

The rules state that the ball must be played as it lies, but under Appendix I, there is leeway for a local committee to institute lift, clean and place if conditions warrant. The PGA Tour does this as a matter of expediency at many tournaments; when you institute lift, clean and place, conditions can be unplayable -- as McDowell suggested -- due to standing water. Being able to place the ball within a club length keeps the round moving.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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