In 2023, there were also some curious rules situations. In addition to the ignorance of the golfers, the triggers included a hit golf cart and a forgotten club in the tournament bag. The intervention of the officials often had bitter consequences and shattered a few dreams this year. One thing is certain, whether quintuple bogey or disqualification, a glance at the rules would have prevented a number of situations.
Aerated greens: Honesty wins over course record
Tommy Kuhl, college golfer, experienced emotional ups and downs at a local US Open qualifying tournament. First, he broke the course record (62) at Illini Country Club and made it to the next qualifying stage. But the player from the University of Illinios had a rude awakening when he spoke to his teammates. When they mentioned after the end of the round how difficult they had found it to putt on aerated Greens, the student realized that he had repaired the effects of aerification more than once. According to Rule 13.1c, repairs can be made, but there is a clear reference to soil aeration: “Damage to the Green does not include damage or conditions caused by normal maintenance work to preserve the Green (such as soil aeration holes and grooves from scarifying).” This gave Kuhl a “queasy feeling” and as he could not reconcile this with his conscience, he let the officials know about his actions. As a result, he indirectly disqualified himself, his course record was annulled and his dream of a US Open was to remain a dream.
Rare faux pas costs qualification for PGA tournament
The next tragic but also honest character in the year’s rule situations is Hayden Springer. The Texan made a momentous gaffe in the final of the qualifying tournament for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. On Monday, it was a four-player play-off for the three spots for the tournament itself in the same week. Before that, Springer practiced on the driving range after his round of 66, which qualified him for the play-off, and waited for the rest of the field. On the range, he practiced with a club that had not previously been part of his 14-strong tournament bag. When he walked onto the fairway at Fieldstone Golf Club in Auburn Hills on the first playoff hole after teeing off, it sent shivers down his spine. Hayden Springer remembered that the 15th club was still in the bag. He immediately reported the mistake to the rules officials, which is particularly creditable as nobody knew about it. He then played par on the first play-off hole like two of his competitors, while one of the other three players only recorded bogey. In purely playing terms, Springer would have made it. But despite his integrity, the rules had to be adhered to and he received two penalty strokes for the infringement. The resulting double bogey cost him his long-awaited qualification for the PGA Tour event.
Debut ends quickly: Lack of knowledge is no defense against penalties
Another bitter situation was experienced by Zach Williams. The 24-year-old American won a spot in the June Memorial Health Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour via a Monday Qualifier. It was his debut on the tour and it was to end very quickly after two holes. Williams used his rangefinder on hole 1, as he had done on Monday, and was penalized two strokes. On the second hole, the same offense led to the American’s immediate disqualification. The Korn Ferry Tour allows distance aids in qualifying tournaments, but not in official events. The player in question commented on X (formerly Twitter) about the “hard to swallow” breach of the rules. There, Williams said he thought the Korn Ferry Tour had adjusted the rules and that you were allowed to use the rangefinder at the other pro events. However, he also admitted that he should have known about this rule.
Sadly, this is me. For some reason I thought they had changed the rule already on the KFT. Plus they allow in literally all other pro events besides KFT and PGA. Bottomline, I should have known, and its completely on me. Hard to swallow but you have to. I’ll be back in no time💪 https://t.co/K6S3LPnag6— Zach Williams (@zwill_3) June 30, 2023
Lydia Ko’s unfortunate misunderstanding leads to seven penalty strokes
A player who no longer has to worry about qualifying is Lydia Ko. As a two-time major winner and former number one in the world rankings, the New Zealander is a permanent fixture on the LPGA Tour. But even a multiple tournament winner is not immune to problems with the rules. At the Dana Open in July, replacing the ball was made possible without penalty for the entire third round after heavy rainfall. When round 4 started on Sunday, the pro assumed that this would continue to apply. But on the 11th hole, the officials realized what had long been forbidden at Highland Meadows Golf Club on Sunday, except for holes 1 and 10.
After a rules misunderstanding at the Dana Open, Lydia Ko was hit with seven penalty strokes.https://t.co/EKnj8Xgue0— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) July 17, 2023
Ko generally assumed replacing the ball was still possible and made use of it on the fairways of holes 3 (par), 7 (par) and 9 (bogey). As she never returned her ball to its original position, she was penalized two strokes for each offence under Rule 14.7a for playing from the wrong position. On the 11th hole, she was given an additional stroke under Rule 9.4 for deliberately picking up the cue ball. However, she continued to play from the original position. So four strokes under par became two over on the leaderboard. This was tantamount to dropping 41 spots.
Upsetting rule situation: Defending champion with a start to forget
Anna Davis won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last year. But in April 2023, things went wrong right from the start. The 17-year-old started with a bogey on hole 1, but that wasn’t the problem. It was the following: On hole 1, she picked up her ball twice, as is customary when changing the ball position. But then the officials intervened. On the Champions Retreat Course next to Augusta National, changing the ball position in the first round was allowed, but only on short grass and not, as in Davis’ case, in the rough. The amateur conceded two penalty strokes per offense in Georgia. Result: Quintuple bogey. According to the youngster, she had asked her scorer whether repositioning would apply everywhere. In spite of his lack of knowledge, the scorer answered in the affirmative and the bogey turned into a five-shot loss. The US-American took it sportingly and saw it as an “instructive experience”. In the end, she missed the cut.
Controversial decision by a few centimeters costs PGA Tour Card
The final round of the Korn Ferry Tour in Indiana was the deciding round for next year’s PGA Tour Cards. Then, at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, Shad Tuten involuntarily attracted the attention of the officials. He was already certain that he was one of the top 30 players with a playing license and went into the clubhouse. But according to the rules officials, the 31-year-old made a mistake on hole 15 following a trip into the rough. When he placed the ball back on the ground after the “lift, clean and place” procedure, it rolled forward by a few centimetres. Tuten played on, but the barely visible movement had an aftermath. He was subsequently penalized two strokes. The birdie on hole 15 turned into a bogey and 30th place into 32nd. This meant that his eligibility to play on the PGA Tour, which he thought was certain, was history, as Rule 14.2e states that you have to try again to place a ball that does not come to rest. The committee therefore decided in accordance with Rule 14.7b: “The result with the ball that was played from the wrong location counts and the player incurs the basic penalty under Rule 14.7a in addition to the result with this ball (this means that two penalty strokes are added to the result with this ball).”
This placement on a lift clean and place cause Shad Tuten his tour card next year. Was 29th before 2 shot penalty. Just crazy pic.twitter.com/JodJbVGPIM— BowTiedClubPro (@BowTiedClubPro) October 8, 2023
Uproar surrounding Brooks Koepka’s caddie at the US Masters 2023
Things got heated in the first round of the US Masters 2023. But not because of Brooks Koepka, who hit a 5-iron onto the green on hole 15 with his second shot and later putted for birdie. It was because of Ricky Elliott, the caddie of the five-time major winner, who apparently said something to his flight partner Gary Woodland and his caddie. “Five” is said to have been the word of agitation, which he probably used to refer to Koepka’s club. Koepka’s hand movement when taking off his glove was also scrutinized as suspicious. However, this would have violated Rule 10-2a, which prohibits giving advice to other caddies or players and is punishable by two penalty strokes. Whether the player is directly involved or only his caddie is giving advice is irrelevant. The Masters officials therefore questioned those involved, but they denied the accusations. Koepka did not consider Elliot to be at fault, as Woodland is even said to have asked him which club he had used on the way to the Green. In the end, the incident went without a penalty and the caddie’s behavior went unpunished, although the upset was significant.
“One in a Million”: Matthias Schwab hits golf cart and spectacularly drops the ball
The next incident was not about a potential penalty, but about the question of how to deal with a strange situation. Matthias Schwab missed his shot during the first round of the 2023 Players Championship and the ball flew towards the spectators as the Austrian shouted “Fore”. The golf cart of the Sky television team led by German reporter Flo Bauer drove past on the cart path and the ball got caught in the vehicle. The crew hit the brakes and an official came to the rescue. The elderly gentleman asked Schwab to put a tee under the cart and mark the spot. Bauer then drove out of the way and things continued in a strange way. Because when the Austrian dropped his ball on the tarred surface, the ball didn’t move an inch despite several bounces and came to rest. You really rarely see a drop like that!
pic.twitter.com/mpAFc9VZO8 — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 10, 2023