Once again the Rules of Golf are in focus. This time, though, it was not about a new Rule.
First, let us see what happened (starts at 0:06):
If I ever witnessed a playing partner do this, a 2 shot penalty would be the least of his worries! 😡😡😡 pic.twitter.com/Ltv7HP9jjc
— GaryEvans (@garyevanspro) 29. januar 2019
Lucas Herbert played hole three on the third round of Omega Dubai Desert Classic on January 26th 2019, and his ball was in a sandy area (as far as I understand, it was NOT in a bunker*). Before the stroke to his ball from the sand he moved some sand next to the ball, allegedly in an attempt to move some loose impediments nearby (which was visually distracting him).
Rule 8.1a states that you are not allowed to improve e.g. your lie or the area of your intended stroke e.g. by removing sand… which was exactly what he did – and thus he incurred a two stroke penalty.
There are quite a few situations, where you are not penalized despite an improvement, herunder when you a) do not gain a potential advantage or b) when you are making reasonable actions to remove loose impediments… but none of these exceptions was apparently considered applicable in this situation.
Herbert ended tied 7th, whereby he received 66,000 Euros in prize money. Not bad. But without the penalty he would have tied for second, which (according to my calculations) would have meant a prize check of approximately 280,000 Euro. So you could say that this penalty cost him 214,000 Euros!
I guess he will remember not to remove sand next time, when he faces a similar situation :-).
*: Therefore the question was not whether or not he had been in breach of some of the bunker Rules (testing the sand, touching the sand right behind the ball etc.), but only if he was in breach of Rule 8.1a.