Balls Collide In Fairway

Friday, June 15, 2012

San Francisco – It didn’t take long for Retief Goosen and Zach Johnson to need a ruling during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. In the process of playing the first hole, Johnson’s ball struck Goosen’s ball, which was a rest through the green. Two different Rules cover what happens when a ball at rest is struck and moved by a ball in motion.

Rule 19-5a (Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped; By Another Ball) states that the ball in motion will be played from where it comes to rest. There is no penalty in all cases unless the two balls were on the putting green before the stroke and the players were playing stroke play. In that case there would be a two-stroke penalty. Therefore, Johnson was instructed to play his ball from where it came to rest.

Under Rule 18-5 (Ball at Rest Moved; By Another Ball), the ball that was at rest must be replaced. Since it was known where Goosen’s ball had been before Johnson’s ball struck it, he lifted it and put it back in its original location. If the original location had not been known, through the green, Rule 20-3c (Placing and Replacing; Spot Not Determinable) specifies that the location would be estimated and the ball dropped as near as possible to that estimated location, no nearer the hole.

Later in the afternoon there were two more incidents of balls in motion striking balls at rest.

Jordan Spieth’s second shot on the 12th hole struck Nick Watney’s ball just short of the green.  With the help of a marshal, Watney’s ball was replaced in the correct location. Since Spieth’s ball was just in front of Watney’s and was interfering with Nick’s next shot, he had Jordan lift his ball under Rule 22-2 (Ball Interfering with Play).

In the final incident, Martin Laird and Anders Hansen balls collided on the 13th green when Hansen’s tee shot struck Laird’s ball, which was at rest. With the help of spectators and a TV camera person, the location of Laird’s ball was estimated and the ball placed. Even though the original location of the ball was not exactly known, Rule 20-3c says that when the ball that was moved was on the putting green, the ball is always placed rather than dropped.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at or watch the Rules of Golf videos at

Written by John Van der Borght, Manager of Rules Communications for the USGA.

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