The Rules of Golf have long been viewed as archaic, out-dated and in some cases just downright ridiculous! Over the last few months professional golf has brought a few of these rules into the golfing limelight through a series of rules infractions that have been well documented in the press. The most recent of which came this weekend when Jose Manuel Lara was disqualified from the BMW International in Cologne after his caddie tried to conceal the fact the Spanish golfer had an illegal 15th club in his bag.
“His caddie noticed he had a 15th club and on the second hole he attempted to lose it in a thick bush,” chief referee John Paramor told Sky Sports television.
“He was seen entering the bush with the bag of clubs by his playing partners who thought it was a little bit suspicious,” added Paramor who disqualified Lara following an opening-round 73.
While this decision was clearly the right one, other high profile rules infractions in professional golf have raised questions. Are the rules of golf too pernickety? Should penalties be as harsh as they are for innocuous infractions? Should someone sitting in front of their TV sucking down a cold beer be able to have such a profound effect on the outcome of a tournament? All of these questions have been flying around recently and it got us thinking…what are the worst rules infractions from golf’s recent history and did the punishment fit the crime?
1991 Doral Ryder Open – Paul Azinger
When Paul Azinger finished his second round, shooting a 65 to get within a shot of the lead, he wasn’t ushered off to the press room to recap his round but was met by PGA Tour rules official Mike Shea, who took him to a CBS television truck. This is another of those bizarre situations when a television viewer awards themselves the title of temporary rules official.
The famous 18th on the Blue Monster Course at Doral
After Azinger had driven his ball into the edge of the lake on the 18th hole of the famous Blue Monster Course at the Doral Resort, the ball was found slightly submerged. Azinger decided to go into the hazard and pitch it back in the fairway and while taking his stance in the water, Azinger twice pawed the ground with his left foot while trying to establish a stable footing. However in doing so he moved a pebble which meant that Azinger had broken Rule 13-4. This prohibits a player from moving loose impediments in a hazard and when Azinger viewed the tape he agreed that he had broken the rule. Since his first-round scorecard was already signed it meant that he had to be disqualified. At the time Azinger was only a stroke out of the lead…ouch!
1997 Players Championship – Davis Love III
In the final round of the 1997 Player’s Championship at Sawgrass, on the world famous par 317th hole, Davis Love III accidentally hit his ball on the putting green while taking a practice stroke. Love assumed that counted as a shot, played on, two putted and put himself down for a bogey 4. Seems reasonable yes? Well not according to the rules of golf!
The 17th at Sawgrass…golf’s most famous hole?
Love should have replaced his ball to the original spot before continuing to putt. Not doing so is a one-stroke penalty, and thus his score for the hole was actually a double-bogey 5. Officials found out about the mistake, but unfortunately for Love this only happened after he had signed his scorecard. Result? Automatic DQ which cost the American Ryder Cup captain somewhere in the region of $105,000! Ok so this probably wasn’t the biggest deal to someone who has won millions playing the game we all love but surly somewhere along the line common sense must be applied?
1987 Andy Williams Open – Craig Stadler
After finishing the tournament held at Torrey Pines with a total score of 270, Craig Stadler went to the scorer’s tent thinking that he’d just finished in second place. Instead, he was informed that he was disqualified for a rules infraction the previous day, which to my mind, is one of the most ridiculous rules infractions I have ever heard of.
On the 14th hole in the third round, Stadler’s ball landed beneath a pine tree in a muddy lie. He needed to play the shot from a kneeling position and since he was wearing light-coloured trousers he placed a towel on the wet ground and kneeled on it while making the shot. Seems innocent enough…but not for golf’s powers that be!
At the time nobody caught the mistake, but the next day while showing highlights of the previous day’s play rules zealots, watching from the comfort of their armchairs, spotted the error and relayed it to PGA Tour officials. What Stadler had done was violate Rule 13-3 by “illegally building a stance”. Since he hadn’t added two strokes to his third-round score, he was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score. The disqualification cost Stadler $37,333.
Craig Stadler getting his own back on the tree that cost him dearly!
2010 Economical Insurance Group Seaforth Country Classic – Jose de Jesus Rodriguez
In just a few short minutes Jose de Jesus Rodriguez went from total elation to absolute deflation in this 2010 Canadian Tour event. The Mexico native fired a scorching third-round 10-under-par 61 to surge into a three shot lead with one round to play. Understandably excited at what he had just achieved, Rodriguez failed to sign his scorecard and was disqualified.
Ok so not signing your scorecard is a bit of a school boy error but in this day and age, when every shot is caught on camera and scores are constantly updated, meaning everyone under the sun knew that his score was correct, surely common sense has to start prevailing?
1968 Masters – Roberto De Vicenzo
The greatest of all rules mishaps occurred at the 1968 Masters, on one of golf’s most hallowed grounds. Upon finishing the final round apparently tied for the lead with Bob Goalby, Roberto De Vicenzo noticed he had given himself a four on the par 4 17th hole, despite the fact that he had actually made a birdie-3. The Rules of Golf state that if a player signs a higher score than played, the signed score stands. Therefore, De Vicenzo gained a stroke, missing the playoff by one. De Vicenzo responded to his disastrous error stating, “What a stupid I am.”
Augusta National – Home of the Masters
2001 Open Championship – Ian Woosnam
Having tried out two drivers in his warm up prior to the final round of the 2001 Open Championship played at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s, Woosie’s caddy had forgotten to remove the driver that wasn’t selected for play. After a solid start that saw the fiery Welshman take the lead, his caddy, Miles Byrne, alerted the 1991 Masters Champion to the fact that he was carrying a 15th club in his bag and Woosnam passed on the message to the officials.
Royal Lytham & St Anne’s hosted the Open that saw Woosie’s 15 club mishap. It will host this year’s Open Championship as well.
He was awarded a two shot penalty and from there onwards, the frustrated Welshman’s challenge faded. But for the two-shot penalty Woosnam would have finished second, won £360,000 and earned an automatic return to the Ryder Cup team.
Byrne knew that a CV with “cost former boss the Open” on it does not make for much of a future. Just as well then, that Woosnam said he had no plans to sack him. Of course that decision was reversed weeks later when Byrne overslept and failed to show up for Woosnam’s final round at the Volvo Scandinavian Masters at Barseback Golf and Country Club!
2010 US PGA Championships – Dustin Johnson
Playing the final hole of the 2010 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Dustin Johnson sprayed his drive right of the fairway, onto a sandy patch of ground that had been trampled by spectators. The big hitting American then proceeded to play his second wide of the green before hitting a tidy pitch shot and two putting for what he thought was a bogey and a place in a sudden death playoff.
The hundreds of tiny, conspicuous bunkers at Whistling Straits cost Dustin Johnson his maiden major.
Johnson had actually played his second from a bunker and had grounded his club in the process which of course resulted in a two shot penalty. He missed out on the playoff but it was the lack of clarity over whether he was playing from a bunker or not that became the issue. Whistling Straits has hundreds of small patches of sand in the rough that, thanks to a local rule, are deemed to be bunkers. The fact that spectators had been standing in it also no doubt contributed to Jonson’s assumption that it was not a hazard and could therefore ground his club.
After the tournament, fellow PGA professional, Stuart Appleby, tweeted:
“I think that they need to make significant changes to the course that has hundreds of pointless bunkers that patrons have to walk through to view players. The PGA says that they’re a part of the game and to be treated as hazards. Never seen patrons walking through bunkers in any other professional event (worldwide)…try that at Augusta!”
He may have had a point.
What is your take on the rules of golf? Do some of them need to be revised? Let us know in the comment section below.