I was advised of an incident that occurred during the fourth and final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am some time back.
Matt Jones was playing the Par-five, second hole with Jim Furyk and had played his second stroke onto the putting green, some 25 metres from the hole.
Unfortunately, although his ball was on the putting green, it seems that there was a ridge of rough between his ball and the hole.
Apparently, from the angle he was playing, there was no way that Jones could putt his ball close to the hole, so he opened up his sand wedge and chipped it. This is unusual, but is certainly not prohibited by the Rules.
A player may use any club they carry to make any stroke from anywhere on the course, providing it is within the Rules.
This obviously excludes any putting green other than the one being played, as a player may not make a stroke from a wrong putting green (see Rule 25-3).
What was even more unusual regarding this incident was that Jones left the flagstick in the hole while he played his chip from on the putting green.
In itself this does not incur a penalty, but if his ball had hit the flagstick, he would have been penalised two strokes under Rule 17-3c;
The player’s ball must not strike: …
… c. The flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green.
So, Jones ran the risk of incurring a penalty and his caddie did not step in to advise him (surprise, surprise!). Should a walking referee, if there was one, have stepped in to prevent the possible breach? This is from the R&A’s ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’;
“This raises the question of the referee’s ethical position when he sees a player about to break the Rules. The referee is not responsible for a player’s wilful breach of the Rules, but he certainly does have an obligation to advise players about the Rules. It would be contrary to the spirit of fair play if a referee failed to inform a player of his rights and obligations under the Rules and then penalised him for a breach that he could have prevented. The referee who tries to help players to avoid breaches of the Rules cannot be accused of favouring one player against the other, since he would act in the same manner towards any player and is, therefore, performing his duties impartially.”