- Associated Press - Friday, May 4, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Ryan Moore noticed his ball move ever so slightly as he went to tap in a 10-inch putt for par on the 11th hole. He didn’t think it was a penalty because the rule had changed for this year.

Not quite.

Rule 18 2-b was changed to avoid what happened to Webb Simpson at New Orleans last year. Simpson went to tap in for par when a gust of wind moved his ball. Under the new rule, if an outside agency moves the ball _ wind is the best example _ the player replaces the ball without penalty. The difference Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship is there was virtually no wind. The ball simply became unsettled and moved.

Moore was assessed a one-stroke penalty, giving him a 70 and leaving him three shots behind Nick Watney going into the weekend.

“Today I got a penalty stroke for absolutely no reason,” Moore said. “I went to address my little tap-in and set into it and set my putter down behind it. Took my stroke back and the ball just settled a little bit. I thought that was the whole point of the ruling change from last year that Webb had incurred. But it turns out the ruling didn’t really change anything. It’s still a penalty, even though I had nothing to do with my ball settling into a lower spot.”

PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul said the ruling is simple. If a player addressed the ball and the ball moves, he was deemed to have forced it to move.

“The new exception to the rule that’s got everybody hung up is the exception refers to if a wind or an outside agency, like a bee or a fly on the green, had caused the ball to move, we can get him out if it he’s virtually certain that he didn’t cause it,” Rintoul said. “But in this case, we’ve got no wind. We’ve got nothing else down there, and the decision specifically refers to gravity. If a ball moves because of gravity, that’s just part of the game.”

Moore accepted the penalty, though he wasn’t happy about it.

“I certainly did not make the ball move, and I thought that was the whole point of the rule change,” he said.

About the only thing that made Moore happy was his position. He was in the hunt going into the weekend at Quail Hollow, and playing well.

“I’m right there in the mix and I’ve proven I can shoot some good scores out here,” Moore said. “Just need a couple more this weekend.”

___

BIRTHDAY BOY: He already has won the U.S. Open and been to No. 1 in the world on two occasions. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Rory McIlroy is only 23.

McIlroy celebrated his birthday Friday by opening with two straight birdies and closing with a birdie on the tough par-4 ninths for a 68 that put him six shots back going into the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship. When he won at Quail Hollow two years ago for his first PGA Tour win, his birthday wasn’t until Monday after the tournament.

It was quite a celebration. This one? Not so much.

Story Continues →