Golf Buzz

Zach Johnson
Getty Images
Zach Johnson repaired his driver during Sunday's final round of The Barclays.

When Zach Johnson repaired his driver during Sunday's final round of The Barclays, it set off an interesting rules discussion among golf fans. What's allowed and not allowed if you happen to unintentionally damage a club?

Here's a synopsis of Rule 4-3a: If a player's club is damaged in the normal course of play, he has three options. One, he can continue to use the club for the remainder of the round. Two, he can repair it or have it repaired without unduly delaying play. Three, if the club is unfit for play, he can replace the damaged club with any club, with three caveats: you can't borrow a club from anyone playing the course, you can't fix it by carrying around spare parts and you can't delay play while making the switch.

MISTER FIX-IT: Zach Johnson makes quick repairs on a damaged driver

We asked Bryan Jones, co-chairman of the PGA of America Rules Committee, to interpret Rule 4-3.

What if you happen to break a club on the range before your round? If you have time to go back to the car for a spare or buy one from the pro shop, it's not an issue.

"That's certainly not a problem because a player may choose his 14 clubs all the way up to the start of his stipulated round," Jones said.

But what if you bend a shaft, lose a grip or crack the driver during the round, like what happened to Johnson? It comes down to how you define "damaged" and "normal course of play."

RULE 25-3: Why the rules can keep you from being a hazard to yourself and the course

Obviously, we've all been with someone who's snapped a shaft against a tree or tossed a club into a pond in a fit of anger. That does not constitute "normal course of play," as you get no relief from temper tantrums.

Instead, Rule 4-3a is more about unexpected equipment failure. I've had a driver head snap off the bottom of a graphite shaft in the middle of a round, and under the rules, I would have had three options, the first -- keep using it -- would not have been much help. Neither was fixing it, and remember, you're not allowed to carry "spare parts," just in case.

So here's where the third option comes into play, Jones said.

"If the damage escalates to the rules category 'unfit for play'  -- which is defined as a dented or broken shaft; loose, detached or significantly deformed club head or a loose grip -- then the player may replace the club with any club he or she chooses," Jones said.

GROUND UNDER REPAIR: When you're allowed to take a free drop

That means if you break a driver, you don't have to replace it with a driver, or a wedge with a wedge. You can add any club as a replacement, as long as it keeps you at the 14-club limit. However, you can't borrow it from anybody in your foursome, or delay play while you go back to the parking lot.

Besides, there aren't many of us who have a spare driver head lying around nearby, like Johnson did Sunday.




Obviously, there's a fourth option: play a club short for the rest of the round, and make do with what's left in the bag.

And if you're just playing "relaxed rules" with friends -- without the club championship or money at stake -- and you wind up driver-less or putter-less, it's only good sportsmanship to share.


August 26, 2014 - 9:15am
Posted by:
Associated Press
tj.auclair's picture
Presidents Cup
USA Today Images
In a seven-year span, the New York area will play host to both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Liberty National will host the 2017 Presidents Cup as part of a 25-year partnership with the PGA Tour.

Liberty National has hosted The Barclays -- the opening FedEx Cup playoff event -- in 2009 and 2013. The partnership announced Tuesday means the tour will bring up to 10 more tournaments to the course that was built on a former landfill and is across from the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.

Course founders Paul Fireman and Dan Fireman also say they are donating $5 million to The First Tee, the tour's national education program for youngsters.

The announcement means the New York area will get the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup in a seven-year span. The Ryder Cup is to be played at Bethpage Black on Long Island in 2024.

August 25, 2014 - 9:32am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods, Sean Foley
USA Today Sports Images
Tiger Woods announced on Monday morning that he would no longer be working with swing instructor Sean Foley.

Tiger Woods announced on his website Monday morning that he is parting ways with swing coach Sean Foley.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said in the statement. "Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

Foley was also quoted in the statement:

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said. "It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

Under the direction of Foley -- a player/coach relationship that began, officially, at the 2010 PGA Championship -- Woods won eight times on the PGA Tour and was Player of the Year in 2013 after winning five times. 

As for next steps?

"Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one," added Woods.


Zach Johnson cracked driver
Zach Johnson finished his round on Sunday at 2-under.

Talk about Midwestern strong.

On Sunday at The Barclays, Johnson noticed a crack in his driver head of his Titleist 913 D2. So he did what any professional would do and replaced it on the spot.

After his round, Johnson went to Twitter to explain what had happened. 


Afterwards, it seemed like Johnson was in a good mood about the incident. 


Even other players got in on the fun. 


But fear not, Johnson was prepared for such an emergency. 


There's been no word about the fate of the cracked clubhead. Maybe he should make it take a very icy Ice Bucket Challenge for charity. 

Seung Yul Noh
How did Seung Yul Noh not know you are not allowed to play a shot off another putting green?

The cardinal rule in golf is "play it where it lies," but there are significant exceptions to Rule 13-1 -- one being, you must take free relief when your ball is sitting on another putting green. 

That's what makes Seung Yul Noh's decision to take a big divot from a green during Thursday's opening round of The Barclays such a head-scratcher, because that's as much common sense as having any knowledge of Rule 25-3. It falls in the same category, according to co-vice chairman of the PGA rules committee, Bryan Jones, as not hitting from out of bounds or hitting off another person or their equipment. 

RULE 25-3: Noh penalized for hitting ball off wrong green

You shouldn't do those things, not just because they're illegal but because they're hazardous.

"These are great examples of where the Rules of Golf, often bashed for complexity and harshness are simple and full of common sense," Jones said. "Many courses have holes close to each other and balls often land on other putting greens. Imagine if players had the liberty of hacking away?

"The Putting Green has always been a special place under the Rules and this privilege is extended to Putting Greens throughout the course. Rule 25-3 provides and requires a player to drop (for free) off of a 'Wrong Putting Green,' although the player may stand on one to play a ball that lies off of it."

GROUND UNDER REPAIR: When you can take a free drop

With rules officials readily available, Jones said all a PGA Tour player has to do is raise his hand and someone will come over and offer a rules interpretation. The fact that Noh didn't do that, even though former PGA Tour player-turned-PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel was fairly close, compounded the mistake.

"I have no doubt that if [Fabel] were closer to Noh and could clearly see the ball on the green, he would have intervened," Jones said. "Rules referees are trained to prevent infractions, if at all possible. It is another reason that golf is truly unique in competitive sport.

"The referee will try on behalf of all players to prevent 'crime,' sometimes he is simply not in position to do so."

HITTING THE WRONG BALL: What do you do if you wind up playing your partner's ball?

So what about players using a club other than a putter on the green they're playing to? Perfectly acceptable under the rules, according to Jones. If you feel using a hybrid or a wood to get some loft on the ball, or if the position of the flag requires a chip, you may do so without drawing the two-stroke penalty Noh incurred.

So be respectful of the course, as well as the rules. Know when you should "play it where it lies" and when you can, and should, take a drop.



August 23, 2014 - 1:45pm
mark.aumann's picture
Justin Rose
The par-4 fifth hole at The Barclays is definitely reachable from the tee, as Justin Rose proved Saturday, coming within a foot of a hole-in-one.

As Phil Mickelson has proven twice this week, the par-4 fifth hole at The Barclays is reachable from the teeing grounds -- if you can keep the ball from flying off into the grandstand.

So here's Justin Rose from 283 yards away in Saturday's third round:

Always happy to be left with a tap-in eagle.