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Beem, confident in his knowledge of golf's rule book, avoids penalty

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002

CHASKA, Minn. -- There it was, right on national television, for every armchair rules official to see: Rich Beem, sweeping the line of his putt on the 15th green with his hat, a two-stroke penalty according to all those who could dial in fast enough.

But Beem knows his golf rule book, and knew no penalty would be assessed Saturday during the third round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

The reason? His ball was not on the green.

"When you're off the green, you can touch the line of your putt, you can sweep debris off the green with a towel, with basically anything that you want," said Beem, who shot 72 and was three behind leader Justin Leonard. "I was off the green, and I just walked up there and there's a bunch of stuff in my line. Instead of trying to sweep everything with my hand, I did it with my hat and I knew that was going to raise a few eyebrows. But I knew the rule and didn't think twice about it."

Had Beem's ball been on the green, he could have only removed debris with his fingers. A towel or hat or even a golf glove is not permitted. Had Beem's ball been on the green, he would have been assessed a two-shot penalty for such an infraction.

WARY OF WOODS: Leonard was five shots ahead of Tiger Woods, but he knows Woods lurks. He has won seven of the past 12 majors.

"The person I watch is the one closest to me," Leonard said. "But I'm human, so, obviously, I'm going to look and see how Tiger is doing. Does he intimidate me? Sure, at times, he does. He hasn't done it this week, and if I go out and do my job, then he won't (today), either."

WEATHER OR NOT: From 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday, Hazeltine was hit with 3 inches of rain. That caused the completion of the second round to be delayed by nearly two hours, as some 60,000 gallons of water had to be pumped off the course.

The rain was replaced by wind that gusted from 35-40 mph, bringing back a few tough memories from last month's British Open at Muirfield. Not only was there wind, but rain as well.

"The difference is that course is designed for that kind of weather," said Ernie Els, who won the British Open. "This is not the same. This course was not built with these kind of winds in mind."

Els said little else compared to a month ago, however. "Saturday at the British Open was a lot worse than this," said Els, who shot 75 and was tied for 13th, 11 back. "I don't think anybody is going to get anything tougher than that."

DIVOTS: Clearwater's John Huston made the cut at 148, then shot a third-round 75. He was tied for 48th. ... The wind was so severe PGA officials moved the tee up 52 yards at the par-4 16th. It still played as the second-toughest hole on the course.

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