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Posted April 10, 2019 10:04 pm
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Golf's newest rules could come into play this week

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    Marc Leishman putts with the flagstick in during practice at Augusta National Golf Club. Players are no longer required to remove the flagstick from the hole while on the green. [ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Considering the more than 50 changes to the Rules of Golf just over three months ago, don’t be surprised if there isn’t at least one ruling in the 83rd Masters Tournament involving one of them.

When the Masters starts, the most noticeable change will be Rule 13.2a (2), which allows players to keep the flagstick in the hole while putting on the green. They haven’t been allowed to do that since it was banned in 1968, resulting in a two-shot penalty if a putt struck from the green hit an unattended flagstick.

Many players, from Bryson DeChambeau to Adam Scott, are now leaving the flagstick in when they are putting.

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Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, said Wednesday that he doesn’t “have a problem” with the rule.

“I know one of the motivations was to improve pace of play, and hopefully it’s doing that,” he said.

Ridley, the 1975 U.S. Amateur champion and a three-time Masters participant, said that “every once in a while” he leaves the flagstick in when he plays golf these days.

“I’m not sure what I do makes a lot of difference,” he said. “I think I’m seeing more and more people do that, and including on the (PGA) Tour. Certainly for longer putts, it seems to make sense.”

He said Augusta National always planned to follow the new flagstick rule, as well as the other changes.

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“We are aligned with the governing bodies on following the rules, and we certainly are free to have input, and our comments would have been respected,” said Ridley, who was the chairman of the Competition committees at the Masters before he became chairman. ”But I can’t say that we really had any influence on what the governing bodies did. I mean, we partner with them in a lot of things, but we believe that they are best suited to promulgate and implement the Rules of Golf.”

The rules are still being tweaked. Just this week, the rule involving damaged clubs was altered. The new rule said players could not replace a damaged club during a round. On Tuesday, the rule was changed to allow a player to replace a broken or significantly damaged club during a round, except in cases of abuse.