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New ball movement rule would have spared Woods' blushes

Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits an approach shot on the first hole during the third round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at the Conway
Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits an approach shot on the first hole during the third round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at the Conway

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Eighty seven changes have been made to the 2013-14 edition of the "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" manual but one in particular will be of interest to world number one Tiger Woods.

New Decision 18/4, agreed by the Royal and Ancient and the United States Golf Association (USGA), aims to clarify when a ball has been inadvertently moved by a player - a scenario that left Woods fuming at the BMW Championship in September.

Woods suffered a two-stroke penalty at the first hole in his second round after he tried to remove a twig from behind his ball.

The American 14-times major winner insisted his ball had merely "oscillated" although detailed video footage of the incident suggested the ball had rolled slightly away from its original resting place.

However, under new guidelines announced on Tuesday, Woods would probably have escaped punishment.

"New Decision 18/4 provides that, where enhanced technological evidence (e.g. HDTV, digital recording or online visual media, etc.) shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time," the new rule states.

A joint statement from the R&A and USGA explained the decision, saying it was made to counter the increased level of scrutiny players are under at elite tournaments owing to the rapid developments in video technology.

"This has led to an increasing number of inquiries to officials from television viewers and others about whether a breach of the Rules has occurred, sometimes resulting in breaches of the Rules being identified (and penalties being applied) after the incident itself has occurred.

"Occasionally, the identification of the breach has been after the player has returned his or her scorecard, which has therefore resulted in disqualification under Rule 6-6d.

"These developments have generated considerable discussion concerning whether, how and when such video evidence should be used."

Woods also fell foul of rules officials at the Masters after taking an illegal drop during the second round when his wedge approach at the 15th struck the flagstick before ricocheting backwards off the green and down the slope into Rae's Creek.

In another change, players will now be allowed to access weather conditions on smatphones during their round without breaching Rules.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Justin Palmer)

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