- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The PGA Tour on Sunday took the unusual step of rescinding the two-stroke penalty it imposed on Justin Rose on Saturday, meaning the Englishman started the final round of the Players Championship five strokes behind the leaders instead of seven.
Rose was docked two strokes late Saturday because his ball was believed to have moved at address behind the 18th green. Under Rule 18-2b, the ball must be replaced, with a one-stroke penalty. Because Rose did not replace the ball, he was given a two-stroke penalty.
But the ruling produced plenty of confusion, even from Rose, who while he acknowledged he feared the ball may have moved in a spongy area behind the green, he wasn't sure that it had. And several replays were inconclusive until finally another angle was viewed in high definition.
"I'm certainly surprised it's overturned," Rose said after shooting a final-round 69 that left him at 278, 10 under par. "Very rarely is that ever the case. Never the case, ever the case, I'm not sure."
Last year, golf's ruling bodies -- the United States Golf Association and the R&A -- wrote Decision 18-4 that was meant to deal with high-definition rulings. It went into effect on Jan. 1.
According to the decision: "The ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time."
"But the only thing that now makes sense is that when I was at home last night and I read that snippet of the (Decision 18-4), I kind of thought, 'God, that's exactly what happened today,'" Rose said Sunday. "Like I said, I didn't really give it another thought because at that point it's, I didn't think it was any point thinking about it. But clearly that's exactly -- I was onto the same thing that the PGA Tour, R&A, USGA were onto as well."
PGA Tour officials consulted with commissioner Tim Finchem and the rules governing bodies and determined that "without the use of sophisticated technology, it was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye that the ball had left is original position and had come to rest in its original place," the tour said in a statement.
The PGA Tour notified Rose about an hour before his 12:35 p.m. tee time that it was rescinding the penalty.
Rose, the reigning U.S. Open champion, seemed confused on Saturday night by the circumstances. While he feared the ball may have moved, Rose watched a video replay near the 18th green with playing partner Sergio Garcia and determined that it did not. He played the shot, then reviewed it with officials for 30 minutes afterward and even signed his card under the agreement that the ball had not moved.
It was only when footage was reviewed by a rules official in the U.K. that it was determined the ball had moved.
"Under 50 times magnification in the truck maybe the ball moved a quarter of a dimple toward the toe of the club, which, obviously, if the ball moved, it moved and I get assessed an extra stroke penalty," Rose said on Saturday. "Whereas, if, in the moment, I would have called the rules official, I would have only been assessed one stroke by moving it back."
Rose was disappointed Saturday night by the ruling but said he was glad the right decision had been made and he felt he erred in not calling over a rules official.
The tour said that its rules committee decided to take another look at the situation on Sunday morning.
Last September at the BMW Championship, there was considerable debate over the two-stroke penalty assessed to Tiger Woods under similar circumstances. He was deemed to have caused his ball to move when he removed a loose impediment behind the first green during the second round.
A possible violation was only detected due to a video crew which required slow motion and high definition to show the ball barely moved. Woods maintained that the ball "oscillated" and did not change positions; PGA Tour rules officials disagreed and assessed a two-stroke penalty.
With the new decision in place, it is possible Woods might not have been penalized at all - just as what happened to Rose.
According to the joint USGA/R&A release last fall on the new decision: "The Decision ensures that a player is not penalized under Rule 18-2 in circumstances where the fact that the ball had changed location could not reasonably have been seen without the use of enhanced technology."
The PGA Tour on Sunday took the unusual step of rescinding the two-stroke penalty it imposed on Justin Rose on Saturday, meaning the Englishman started the final round of the Players Championship five strokes behind the leaders instead of seven.