Date: March 15, 2017
Author: Bernie McGuire, Florida

Ogilvy mixed on Rules changes

Geoff Ogilvy has thrown his support behind the majority of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, but thinks some have been overlooked.

The Victorian, recently appointed to the players' advisory board of the US PGA Tour, said he agreed with the eradication of "silly penalties" for accidental errors.

But he said failure to address "stroke and distance" penalties remained an issue for the R&A and USGA to address, while problems with sandy divots had also been overlooked.

“The stroke and distance penalty is far too harsh because if you hit a 300-yard drive one inch out of bounds and your playing partner completely misses the ball on the tee, it means that the guy who hits a 300-yard drive is playing his third shot from the tee, and the guy who misses hitting his ball off the tee is playing second off the tee,” Ogilvy said.

“What, then, is a bigger penalty in golf? Either hitting your ball 300 yards down the fairway and going out of bounds or not hitting the ball.

“I just think the stroke-and-distance penalty is too severe.

“Also, I would advocate that the rules be changed with regards sandy divots and if the ball lands in what is clearly a sand-filled divot you be allowed relief.

“We saw in the 1994 US Open with Ernie Els at Oakmont (where) he nearly lost the tournament because his ball landed in what as a sandy divot.”

But the 2006 US Open champion

is pleased golf’s ruling bodies are proposing to do away with what he calls ‘silly’ penalties where a player is not deliberately seeking to gain an advantage.

“I understand the principle of taking away all those silly penalties such as happened to Dustin (Johnson) at last year’s US Open last year as that was sheer nonsense," Ogilvy said.

“He was not cheating; no one received any advantage; no penalty, so continue to play.

“Penalties like when you may accidentally kick your ball when looking for it in the rough as that should not be illegal as no one is gaining an advantage.

“There’s also that situation where Padraig Harrington was disqualified some years back in Abu Dhabi as it was shown later on TV, and unbeknown to him, he had, by accident, knocked his ball while picking up his marker.

“Then there is the rule when the wind may blow your ball off the greens so I completely agree those penalties need to be removed from the game.

“The specifics I don’t mind and it’s just the philosophy of making the rules that much more simple and fairer as players being penalised for technicalities is a joke.”

Ogilvy, 39, was asked if he thought reducing the search time for a golf ball from five minutes to three minutes was a good proposal.

“Is golf really slow because of a five-minute rule?” he responded.

“I don’t think so. What makes golf slow is when you take 50 practice swings.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time when you are looking for your ball, you find it. Really, if you are not going to find it in three minutes, usually you are not going to find it within five minutes.

“So, it that sense it's probably not going to make any difference and I don’t really mind that change.”

The changes to rules, once agreed after a global review of the proposals, will come into effect on 1 January, 2019.