Afa respect for the Rules is concerned, the Rules keep changing all the time. Having respect does not mean agreeing with the principle, and as in this case the Committee has two choices, both which may be justified. We feel it is more fair to have all the players play in the same conditions than changing conditions for a number of players.
I see what Mr Bean is saying. The Decision gives the Committee the freedom to determine an area to be GUR in the middle of a competition. He and his fellow referees do not agree that this freedom should be provided and choose not to exercise it. It is a principled choice based on their perception of fairness to the whole field.
I see what he is saying too, I just don't agree that on the whole it is principled. The decision says that a committee would be justified in granting the second player to come across the GUR relief. To fail to provide that clearly sanctioned relief is the greater of two evils IMO. That's exactly what "justified" means to me.
And let's not forget that this all started with his position that a small committee governing a small competition should not be allowed to do so since it might provide inconsistent guidance to other unrelated groups that day (as described in his quote excerpt below). IMO neither of these positions shows respect for the subject decision's clear point of view. It would have been easy enough for the RB's to say, "not justified" if thats what they felt.
" . . . Now, two players enter the course and start to play a handicap round. They face an area that (in their opinion) should be marked as GUR and they decide it indeed is to be handled as GUR. So they take a free drop and move on. As it happens another group of three has already passed that point also playing a handicap round and they all played their balls from that area without taking a free drop. Also a group behind them did the same.
So, are these three groups treated equally? No, not at all, as all three groups had a different committee to decide upon things. Thus I challenge the response Sawgrass got from USGA as it slaps on the face the players who play the course as they find it against those who think they have the power to decide upon GURs. In a competition GURs are equal to all contenders, why should it be different to players playing a handicap round during the same day?
Players are not a committee for themselves nor to any other player. That is what the Club Committee is there for.
EDIT: Once you are playing a social round not affecting your handicap you can play however you want. But any round affecting your handicap must be played by the Rules and equally to all other players on that course on that particular day."