In September 2019 Paul Casey encountered a pretty weird incident involving the Rules of Golf.
During the second round of the Porsche European Open this happened:
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 6, 2019
As you can probably see, during it’s way towards the hole, his ball struck a living insect!
What do the Rules of Golf say about that?
Rule 11.1b, Exception 2 states, that if a ball in motion after a stroke strikes an animal (“outside influence”), the stroke must without penalty be replayed. Casey did not do that due to the simple fact that he had not seen the ball strike the insect!
Why didn’t he incur a penalty, then? The reason is a so-called “Clarification” as of December 2018, which states this:
1. How To Apply Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b:
Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b is to be applied using the “known or virtually certain” standard. Therefore, if there is knowledge or conclusive evidence that the ball played from the putting green accidentally hit a person, animal or movable obstruction on the putting green, the stroke does not count. (Added 12/2018)
2. Living Insects Are Animals:
Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b applies to living insects since they are animals.
Thus, you must apply the “known or virtually certain” standard. If it is “known or virtually certain” that the ball has struck an insect, you must replay the stroke – otherwise you must play the ball as it lies.
Was it then “known or virtually certain” in Caseys incident? The definition of “known or virtually certain” states this:
Known or virtually certain means more than just possible or probable. It means that either:
- There is conclusive evidence that the event in question happened to the player’s ball, such as when the player or other witnesses saw it happen, or
- Although there is a very small degree of doubt, all reasonably available information shows that it is at least 95% likely that the event in question happened.
“All reasonably available information” includes all information the player knows and all other information he or she can get with reasonable effort and without unreasonable delay.
The Rules officials relied on the fact that Casey had no idea, that the ball had struck the insect. He had not seen anything, and thus he had not been in a situation, where you could ask for him to examine anything further. Probably there had not been any witnesses that had seen it.
Therefore, he should play the ball as it lay (i.e. it was holed out) without penalty, which was exactly what he did! So you could say that he did what the Rules of Golf asked him to do, without even knowing it!
By the way Casey won the tournament and thereby got his first victory on the European Tour in five years.