Will Shanshan Feng defend her title?
The answer depends on the wording of the “lift, clean and place” Rule. On the LPGA Tour, when we put this Rule into effect, we only allow it to be used in the fairway or grass mown at fairway height or less.
Yes. However, if the ball was so close to the tree that neither a right or left-handed was reasonable, relief would not be available.
Rule 1-2 states: A player or caddie must not take action to influence the movement of a ball except in accordance with the Rules. Let's assume that the flagstick is lying near the hole and you putt. If anyone thinks the ball might strike the flagstick and as a courtesy moves the flagstick, that player would incur the penalty of two strokes. See Decision 1-2/3.
Since your ball lasted crossed the lateral hazard (red) line you have four options with a one-stroke penalty (other than playing the ball as it lies):
1) play a ball as near as possible to the spot where the original ball was last played;
2) drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and spot on which the ball is dropped…;
3) drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard; or
4) within two club-lengths of a point on the opposite side of the water hazard that is equidistant from the hole.
See Rule 26-1
Stakes and lines used to define a lateral water hazard must be marked red.
Stakes and lines used to define a water hazard must be marked yellow. Check out the difference between these two hazards by looking up "Lateral Water Hazard" and "Water Hazard" in the "Definitions" section in the Rules of Golf Booklet.
The relief procedure for water hazards and lateral water hazards are different and are explained in detail under Rule 26.
A player's club may touch the ground in a hazard or water in a water hazard in measuring or probing in water in a water hazard to find ball, in probing to find a ball covered by loose impediments or in preventing that player from falling (Rule 13-4). Remember that the definition of grounding is when the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club (see Decision 18-2b/5).
If the dry leaves and old grass was material piled for removal then it would be considered “Ground under repair” and relief would be available without penalty, (See Rule 25-1b). If the debris was not intended to be removed you would either play the ball as it lay or declare it unplayable and proceed under Rule 28a, b or c, incurring a one-stroke penalty.