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'Bad rule' that cost Webb Simpson PGA victory may be changed

May 2, 2011 |  2:28 pm

The U.S. Golf Assn. and the Royal & Ancient reportedly have been considering changing a certain rule for the better part of a decade. That lengthy discussion may have cost Webb Simpson his first PGA Tour victory last weekend.

Simpson was leading the Zurich Classic of New Orleans by a shot with his ball less than a foot from the cup at the 15th hole Sunday. But the ball moved as he addressed it on the green. Simpson said it likely was caused by the wind, combined with dry and hard greens, but that didn't matter.

Because the current USGA rule doesn't offer any leeway for ball movement caused by outside forces, Simpson was penalized a stroke and eventually finished tied with Bubba Watson after 72 holes. Watson went on to win the tournament in a playoff.

“I better limit my comments on that rule, because I think it's such a bad rule,” Simpson said Sunday. “When the wind or other natural things affect the golf ball, the player shouldn't be penalized.”

USGA vice president Thomas O'Toole said Monday that a modified version of the rule may be in place as early as 2012. "If some other agency — wind or gravity — is known to cause that ball to move, no penalty would be applied,” O'Toole said at the U.S. Open media day at Congressional Country Club.

O'Toole added that the rule change has been under consideration for at least seven years but will now be discussed in earnest during the next several months.

“We have to react to this,” he said. “I think this is a better place to be than penalizing players unfairly.”


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Webb Simpson, right, speaks with a rules official on the 15th green after Simpson's ball moved during the final round of the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana. Credit: Hunter Martin / Getty Images