RBC Heritage defending champion Carl Pettersson thinks golf's rules should be simplified

mmccombs@islandpacket.comApril 15, 2013 

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Heritage Classic Foundation's Scott Richardson applauds after presenting 2012 RBC Heritage champion Carl Pettersson with his tartan jacket Monday afternoon during the opening ceremony for the 45th RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver

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Carl Pettersson can certainly relate to the situation Tiger Woods found himself in last week at the Masters.

And it's why the defending champion of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing says golf needs to change.

Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop on the 15th hole Saturday after he signed his scorecard. He was, however, not disqualified after Masters officials ruled the error was not his fault because rules officials initially said there was no violation.

"The ruling with Tiger was certainly a different one," Pettesson said Monday shortly after hitting his ceremonial opening tee shot into the Calibogue Sound. "But yes, I think golf has some silly rules. It just needs to be simplified, I think. With the call-in viewers and stuff, it's a little different (than other sports) I think."

USGA rules official Mike Murphy wouldn't say he would have reached the same decision the Masters did, but said he understands and respects the decision of the Fred Ridley and the tournament's competition committee.

"The quesiton became 'did he sign an incorrect scorecard?' or 'was this a situation where the committee ruled but didn't have all the facts?' "

Murphy said the goal in any ruling is to protect the player and protect the game. And a general rule is officials want to address any penalties soon enough, if possible, to avoid disqualification. This time, with relatively recent changes in the rules, the tournament had an out and took it.

"You hate for something like that to happen at a major championship, but the rules are not simple," Murphy said. "I'd say there are very few people in the country that actually know the rules well. And I'm not certain how many of those are players."

Pettersson had his experience with a similar situation last year, when he was penalized two strokes on the first hole of the final round of the 2012 PGA Championship at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island when he "moved a loose impediment lying in a lateral water hazard, while his ball was lying in the same hazard," according to the PGA.

He grazed a leaf in his backswing.

"Obviously (I) broke a rule there," Pettersson said at the time. "I didn't realize it myself. I don't think it affected the outcome of the shot. But just one of those things. We have a lot of stupid rules in golf."

The ruling didn't cost Pettersson a title. Rory McIlroy decimated the field, winning by eight strokes. But it did cost him a fair amount of money.

Instead of finishing in second place all alone and winning $865,000, Pettersson tied for third and brought home $384,500.

Pettersson thinks it's time golf adjusts its rules. And he has an idea on how to go about that.

"I think there should be some PGA Tour rules that are different from USGA rules," he said. "We do this every week. There's certain rules that could be changed that I think would simplify things for us a little bit more than some of the USGA rules."

Murphy pointed out that every golfer on the course has an interest in whether or not the other golfers follows the rules.

As for Woods' penalty at the Masters, Pettersson said there was no consensus among the golfers on the tournament's ruling.

"There were some guys that thought he should be disqualified. There were some guys that didn't think there was a penalty at all," Petersson said. "Also, it was kind of wishy washy through the board I think. They made their decision, and we've got to stick by that."

Asked if he, specifically, had an opinion on the way the penalty was handled, Pettersson simply smiled and said, "no."

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