Deutsche Bank golfers keep rules officials on their toes

Posted in What's News by on September 6th, 2011

NORTON, Mass. — While there was nothing so wild as a contending player mistaking a bunker for a patch of turf or a DQ based on the eagle eyes of an armchair ref, golfers at last weekend’s Deutsche Bank Championship put PGA Tour rules officials through their paces.

After wrapping up his disastrous second hole with a three-putt and a nine on the scorecard during Monday’s Deutsche Bank Championship finale, Nick Watney got the bad news. He had to add another two to the tally because he violated No. 13-4 of the Rules of Golf: when your ball is in a hazard, you may not “touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard” with a hand or a club.

It’s highly unlikely that Watney, who finished the day with a 9-over 80, was testing the ground when he angrily slammed his wedge into the hazard after failing to hit out of the gnarly area. Still, ignorance of the Rules of Golf is no excuse and authorities assessed him the two-stroke penalty.

Then there was the additional stroke Matt Kuchar incurred in Saturday’s second round. Finding his tee shot lodged against the stone wall guarding the par-3 16th green, Kuchar tried to persuade official Steve Rintoul that he intended to hit a risky ricochet shot into the rocks and would have to stand on a drain pipe to do so.

Matt Kuchar failed to convince rules officials he deserved a favorable drop during the 2nd round at TPC Boston (Photo: Wikipedia)

Had he won the debate, Kuchar could have taken a club length relief from the pipe, chipped his ball over the wall, and made par — all of which would have been kosher if Rintoul bought Kuchar’s story. Watching him set up to the shot, however, the official determined that Kuchar “was taking an abnormal stance,” Rintoul told us Tuesday.

Kuchar called for a second opinion and Stephen Cox concurred with Rintoul’s opinion. The golfer eventually took a drop, a penalty stroke, and a bogey on the hole on which he recorded two birdies and a par in his other three rounds at TPC Boston. He finished the tourney that Webb Simpson won in a playoff in a tie for 25th at 6-under.

“[Kuchar] was putting his front foot closest to the wall in a very unusual position for that shot,” Rintoul said. “We were applying the exception to Rule 24-2 that doesn’t give relief from an obstruction if the player is taking an abnormal stance or abnormal direction of play.”

Kuchar may have been trying to get away with one, but it’s all part of the game, Rintoul noted.

“Everyone thought Matt was reaching a little bit [with his rationale],” Rintoul observed. “That happens in the line of fire.”

Zach Johnson’s tete-a-tete with rules cops had a happier ending. When his approach shot to 18 on Monday found an immovable obstruction, the regulations gave him a break.

His ball landed in the tall, green-side rough that would have required a deft touch to chip the ball close. Because his Titleist Pro V1x rested on one of several sprinkler heads in the vicinity, however, Johnson was able to take relief that eventually let him hit from the apron.

“There were literally five sprinkler heads in the same area,” Johnson told us following his 1-under final round. “Just using the rules to my advantage: standing on a sprinkler head, dropped it, stood on another one, and then obviously dropped it from there.”

Johnson’s putt stopped just short of the cup and he tapped in for birdie and an 8-under, T16 finish.

Happily, all three players advanced to the next round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the BMW Championship outside Chicago in two weeks.

(Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. Check her out on the Waggle Room, Boston Golf Examiner, National Golf Examiner, and GottaGoGolf websites. You may also follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer.)

Reader Comments