Golf set for fresh look with new rules

LONDON — Golf’s rule-makers rubber-stamped Monday several changes to make the sport easier to understand and quicker to play, which will come into force next year.

The R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA) have made some changes to the proposals which were put up for public consultation in 2017.

The alterations, such as allowing the flag to remain in the hole unattended while putting, come into force on January 1.

Players will not incur a penalty for removing loose impediments from bunkers, while they will only be allowed three minutes and not five, as it was before, to look for a lost ball.

Golfers will be able to drop the ball from knee rather than shoulder height when taking relief, after the rule-makers acknowledged feedback from a worldwide consultation which rejected a proposal to drop from any height.

“Our previous proposal had a number of difficulties with it, particularly around how close certain players would get to the ground in certain circumstances,” David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, told BBC Sport.

“Knee-height gave us that balance, gave us the ability to preserve the randomness of the drop.

“But by being significantly lower than shoulder height and by allowing a player to get their eyes over the ball, they can be much more precise in terms of the dropping procedure.”

The onus will be on the players to use ‘reasonable judgment’ when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance, with no retrospective penalties even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong.

The rule-makers rejected proposals for drops to be made from a standard 20 or 80 inches and instead the golfer can select their longest club, but not their putter, for the measurement.

“We are pleased to be introducing the new Rules of Golf after a collaborative and wide-ranging review process which has embraced the views of golfers, rules experts and administrators worldwide,” said Rickman.

“We believe that the new rules are more in tune with what golfers would like and are easier to understand and apply for everyone who enjoys playing this great game.”

Kim eager to defend title

After becoming the youngest golfer to win The Players Championship in 2017, South Korea’s Kim Si-woo has now set his sights on being the first to successfully defend the title when he returns to TPC Sawgrass in May.

The Seoul native stunned a strong field last year to win the PGA Tour’s flagship event when he was 21-years-old, his victory coming six years after compatriot K.J. Choi also took the title.

If Kim defends his title at the $10.5 million tournament from May 10-13 this year, he would be the first to do so since it was established in 1974.

“Someone told me there hasn’t been any back-to-back champion, and I’ve noticed a lot of champions who come back don’t play well,” the 22-year-old said at a media event at TPC Sawgrass in Florida Monday.

“I would like to change that, and I’m already preparing to come back and defend my title this year.”

Kim said returning to the scene of his biggest victory conjured up many happy memories.

“To see my pictures up on the wall and to drive up to this course, it brings back a lot of memories, and even though all tournaments are great, I would like to come back and win this one and defend my title,” he added.

Kim, ranked 53rd in the world, said that while it was an honor to have won the same title as Choi, he had a long way to go to matching the feats of the South Korean trailblazer, who has won eight times on the elite US tour.

“I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Obviously K.J. has a lot more wins and a lot of experience. I currently only have two wins. But I definitely hope to be as great by having more wins and playing on the tour.”

Kim also said he was glad to be returning to full fitness after his form was hampered by a back problem. “I went back to Korea last winter, and I think just having the cold weather there didn’t help, and I didn’t really exercise or stretch as much as I should have, so looking back, I think that’s what caused a lot of the injury,” he said.

“Now it feels great. I’m able to swing without any pain.”

He added that it was great to see Tiger Woods, who won the Players in 2001 and 2013, returning to the tour after recovering from back surgeries.

“To know that we’re both The Players and to know that we both won on this course, it’s pretty amazing, and to just see him out there practicing is just unreal because he’s such a legendary player and I watched him growing up and watched him just dominate the sport,” said Kim.

“I’m hoping to play with him one day. I haven’t played with him yet in a tournament, so I’m looking forward to that day.” — Agencies