Z. Johnson's unique ruling at the Travelers
June 22, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Zach Johnson interview after Round 2 of Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – A few ticks of the clock may have cost Zach Johnson a share of the second-round lead at the Travelers Championship.
With his 18-foot birdie attempt at the 424-yard par-4 third sitting on the edge of the cup Friday, Johnson walked up to the ball, counted off the 10 seconds he could legally wait under the rules, and then was about to tap in. But then the ball started to wobble, so he held up. It eventually dropped into the cup – but by then, at least six more seconds had elapsed.
So instead of a birdie, Johnson had to settle for a par en route to a 68 that left him at 9 under and in a three-way tie for second, one shot behind 36-hole leader Brian Harman.
“You can call it unfortunate. You can just call it the rules of golf,” Johnson said. “I really don’t know. I’m not going to lose one second of sleep. I don’t want to say it’s irrelevant. It’s just the way it goes.”
While still on the third green, Johnson consulted PGA TOUR rules official John Mutch. He also met with Mutch and Vice President of Rules Mark Russell in the scoring trailer after his round. Johnson wondered what would have happened had he marked his ball. Would he get another 10 seconds? Does a wobbling ball reset the 10-second clock to zero?
“Even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip,” Johnson said after the discussions. “Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is. So even if I would have hit a moving ball there, it would not have mattered. Technically, I wouldn’t have to tap it in either, I guess, because it’s a one-shot penalty. Once the ball’s in the hole, the ball’s in the hole.”
Rule 16-2 addresses a ball overhanging a hole, stating: “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 addition 10 seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ballhas 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, there is no penalty under this rule.”
Russell was asked how long the entire process lasted once the 10-second countdown began. “About 16 to 18 seconds, something like that. Well over 10 seconds.” Russell added, “If that would have happened with eight seconds once he had reached the hole, he would’ve made a 3.”
Russell said the 10-second countdown only begins “once you reach the hole and you’re in a position where you can tap it in.”
Theoretically, then, Johnson could have taken his time reaching the hole, buying a few more seconds in hopes the ball would legally drop for birdie.
“I could have walked really slow to the ball, yeah,” said Johnson, noting that the 10-second rule was there to address pace of play issues. “But I’m not so sure I would have felt good about that.”
While the rules may have cost Johnson a stroke at the third hole, he did use the rule book to his advantage at the par-4 17th.
After his tee shot found the water, Johnson utilized one of the five options under a lateral water hazard rule to drop near the 16th tee box, some 232 yards from the hole. He said it was a better option than dropping in the rough, where he’d just wedge out and play for a bogey.
“It was kind of hard to determine where the ball crossed, but I think my playing partners and I were fairly conservative,” Johnson said. “I don’t like to push it on that.
“So we took the mark and I used the rule to my advantage and went lateral, which was towards 16 tee box. There was kind of a brown area there that was within two club lengths, so I dropped it there and I thought, you know what? If I get a decent lie, I can maybe give it a whirl because there’s really not a whole lot there between me and the hole, and maybe I can get it around the green and make a 5. If I don’t get a good lie, I’ll just wedge it out on the fairway and try to get up-and-down for 5.”
Instead, he opened up a 4-hybrid, started his shot over the grandstands, and heard the gallery reaction as the ball finished inside 8 feet. He then made the par putt.
“If felt good to get away with that 4,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed or performed.”
As for the other 16 holes Johnson played Friday? Fairly benign. A couple of birdies on a bogey-free round.
“A lot of good out there,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of boring fairway, green, missed putt golf. But there were a couple of incidents that were highlights and/or asterisks. I don’t know how you’d label it.”