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Stephen Gallacher column: Harsh penalty for Russell Knox shows grey area in rules

Russell Knox.
Russell Knox.

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was great entertainment but I felt very sorry for Russell Knox.

The Inverness golfer started the final round in tied second position and only two shots behind leader Jordan Spieth.

But his hopes of making a fast start came undone when he received a one-shot penalty on the first hole after his ball moved slightly when he was going through his pre-shot routine as he was about to chip on to the green.

Russell immediately called a rules official over who initially deemed there was no penalty, but the PGA Tour officials who reviewed the television footage disagreed and felt Russell had caused the ball to move.

It took until Russell got to the fifth hole before he was informed of the one-shot penalty.

He had birdied the second and third to get to within one shot of the lead, but this fiasco derailed his momentum.

It would have been better if he had got clarity immediately and told about the penalty at the first rather than a few holes later.

Russell said afterwards the rule should be changed and he maybe has a point.

It has been changed on the putting green because there is no penalty if the ball moves as you are lining up a putt.

It is a grey area because it depends when it is determined you have addressed the ball.

A lot of golfers have very different pre-shot routines and some take longer than others once they have addressed it.

If you have made the ball move then it should be a penalty, but if you haven’t done anything to make the ball move then I don’t think you should be penalised.

Sometimes when you are on the slope, if you put the club behind and close to the ball, the grass can make the ball move.

If you are in the rough and the ball is sitting up and the grass is lying with you, you will never ground the club just in case that happens.

It appeared a harsh decision listening to Russell explain the situation to the referee and I really felt for him.

It was a tough break, but the final round was great viewing.

It had a bit of everything and it wasn’t clear who was going to win coming down the stretch until Daniel Berger holed that eagle putt at the last.

Nate Lashley was tie for the lead until he four-putted from 20 feet and then smashed his putter off the green in a complete loss of composure.

Berger kept his cool and rolled in a beautiful putt at the last to win.

He is a top player and is now eighth in the US team’s standings for the Ryder Cup. It wouldn’t be a major shock if he makes the final 12.

Spieth had to settle for tied third, but it was another encouraging week for him.

People say he has had a slump since winning The Open in 2017, but I read that he has won $10 million in prize money since then, including 14 top 10s.

He looks like he is getting back to his old form. He just needs a bit of luck, but it doesn’t look like we will have to wait too much longer until he ends his wait for victory.

Rickie Fowler will have to dig deep for Masters

Rickie Fowler’s uncharacteristic slump in form continued at Pebble Beach.

He missed the cut for the 10th time in 22 events and has now dropped to 66th in the world rankings.

It is his lowest placing for more than a decade and he will know he needs to turn things around if he is going to be in the field for this year’s Masters.

He will have to either win a PGA Tour event or return to the top 50 in the rankings before Augusta to make the field.

But it is only natural for players to have a dip in form. We see it in every sport.

These are the periods when you have to dig deep, keep working hard and remain confident.

I’m sure he will be working hard and hopefully he starts heading in the right direction.

Ladies European Tour will be record breaker

It was great to see the Ladies European Tour announce a record-breaking 27-event schedule with £16.5m prize money.

The venue for the Ladies Scottish Open is yet to be announced and we know that Aberdeen Standard Investments won’t be the title sponsor this year, but I’m sure a good sponsor will emerge.

The tournament is taking place on August 12-15 – a week before the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie which will be a great double-header for Scottish women’s golf.

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