Is it a hole-in-one?

By Layne Magee

The 2009 RBC Canadian Open was memorable for several reasons, not the least of which was the 8 holes-in-one scored during the tournament. This is the most scored in a single event since the PGA Tour began keeping records in 1971 and beat the previous record of 5 made at the 2004 John Deere Classic.

While all Canadians were thrilled by Mike Weir’s hole-in-one, it was Leif Olson’s shot that had most of the golf world abuzz. During the rain-delayed second round, Olson was playing with Kris Blanks who had already played his tee shot at the par-3 15th hole. Blanks’ ball was resting safely on the green when Olson stepped to the tee. Olson’s 9-iron shot landed past the hole, spun back and caromed off Blanks’ ball and into the hole. Yes, contrary to what many people believed, it was a legitimate hole-in-one.

Rule 19-5 covers this particular situation

If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play the ball as it lies.

This is what is known as a “rub of the green” and occurs whenever a ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by an outside agency. Blanks’ ball was an outside agency relative to Olson’s ball.

Another name for a “rub of the green” is luck. It can be good and it can be bad. For Olson, it was obviously a good rub of the green. A bad rub of the green would have occurred if Olson’s ball had deflected off Blanks’ ball and came to rest in a water hazard. Should this have happened, Olson would have been obligated to play his ball out of the water or incur a 1-stroke penalty for taking relief from a water hazard.

In accordance with the rules, Blanks’ had to replace his ball at the spot where it lay when it was deflected by Olson’s ball. Even though the players were 140 yards away, a replay of the TV video enabled the rules officials to know the exact spot at which to replace the ball. If a TV replay was not available, then Blanks would have been required to estimate the spot where his ball was and replace it at that spot.

Olson’s hole-in-one was one of 4 that were scored at the 15th hole during the second round alone. Remarkably, these were the first holes-in-one scored at the 15th hole in the 25 years that Glen Abbey had hosted the tournament. Casey Wittenberg, Briny Baird and Arjun Atwal also aced the 15th and all four players were awarded a BMW z4 Roadster as a prize. Olson was given the keys to the car on the spot and immediately jumped into the driver’s seat. The car was worth over $50,000 and was certainly a welcome addition to the $19,562 that he had won on tour to date that year.

Layne Magee is a certified Rules Official who has officiated at provincial, national and international tournaments and written about the Rules of Golf for many golf publications.

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