Continuing with our series on “Costliest Rulings in Golf”, here is #4 on the list. If you haven’t followed our other posts in this series click here.
Juli Inkster is a legend on the LPGA Tour, with a professional career spanning 29 years to date and 31 LPGA tour wins under her belt.
It’s true that when legends violate a rule it gets more attention – that was the case with this “Hall of Famer” who was three strokes off the lead at the end of the 2nd round at the 2010 Safeway Classic.
During a lengthy wait at the 10th tee, Inkster affixed a weighted donut to her 9-iron and took some practice swings to stay loose. It was a clear violation, but went unnoticed until an email was set to the LPGA by a television viewer. Unfortunately it is illegal to use a training aid during play amd Inkster was disqualified by officials once she was back in the clubhouse.
She later said, “It had no effect on my game whatsoever, but it is what it is. I’m very disappointed.”
Q. During a round, may a player make a stroke or a practice swing using a club with a weighted headcover or “donut” on it, or use any other device designed as a training or swing aid?
A. No. The player would be using an artificial device to assist him in his play in breach of Rule 14-3, but see also Decision 4-4a/7 for use of a weighted training club.
Continuing with our series on the Costliest Rulings in Golf, here is yet an another event that can be tagged “a misfortune” in golfing history. In case if you missed our previous post on this series click here.
# 3. Craig Stadler:1987 San Diego Open
It was 1987 and Craig Stadler (nicknamed “The Walrus”), who was among the third-round leaders, hit his tee shot on the par-4 384 yard 14th hole at the San Diego Open at Torrey Pines. Unfortunately, the ball landed under a low-hanging branch of a large Leyland Cypress tree.
To make his swing easier, Statdler decided to hit his next shot from his knees. In order to do that without staining his expensive pants from the wet grass, he placed a towel under his knees and chipped the shot into the fairway. Little did he knew about the consequences of that.
When the 3rd round highlights were televised in NBC before the Sunday’s final round, the scenes of Stadler kneeling to his shot caught the attention of many viewers. Viewers then flooded the tournament press with phone calls saying it was a violation of PGA rule.
He finished his rounds 4 shots behind George Burns but was later informed by the officials that use of the towel was considered “building” a stance, which is a rules violation. And because he had signed the scorecard for less than the correct score (i.e without two-stroke penalty) on Saturday, he was disqualified from the tournament.
It costed him $37,000 prize money and second place.
Here is what the rule of Golf (13-2) says,
A player must not improve or allow to be improved:
the position or lie of his ball,
the area of his intended Stance or swing,
his Line Of Play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the Hole, or
the area in which he is to drop or place a ball,
by any of the following actions:
pressing a club on the ground,
moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed (including immovable Obstructions and objects defining Out Of Bounds),
creating or eliminating irregularities of surface,
removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position, or
removing dew, frost or water.
8 years later when Tom Wilson, a member of the tournament organizing committee, heard the tree was dying by fungus, invited Statdler to do the honours and help cut down. Statdler readily accepted and said “It’s been eight years. It’s time to put it rest”.
Caddies play a pivotal role in a player’s performance. The great Bobby Jones once said “If I needed advice from my caddie, he’d be hitting the shots and I’d be carrying the bag”. But yes, mistakes do happen and caddies are no exceptions to that. Such was the case in Ian Woosnam and his caddie Myles Byrne, our #2 on the list of the Costliest Rulings in Golf series. If you missed our other entry in this series click here.
It was a wonderful start for Ian Woosnam at the 2001 British Open – against all expectations he was in contention to win his first open at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s. Tied for the lead with three others, he marched with a lot more confidence into his final 18. He started the round with a birdie (missed a hole-in-hole by a whisker) at the opening par 3.
The tale then had a sudden twist as something dramatic happened. His caddie, Myles Byrne, came up to him and said, “You’re going to go ballistic” – “We’ve got two drivers in the bag” as he pointed out the extra driver. That meant Woosnam was carrying 15 clubs, which indeed is a two-stroke penalty.
Woosnam responded by throwing the extra club to the ground in disappointment. ‘I give you one job to do and this is what happens,’ he said. As a result of the penalty, Woosnam finished with 71 – four shots behind the winner David Duval, tied for 3rd place.
Here is what rule of Golf (4-4) says,
Maximum Of Fourteen Clubs
The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen.
It costed Ian Woosnam 218,333 pounds and a potential Ryder Cup spot. On the other hand, caddie Byrne lost anywhere from 15 to 20 thousand pounds in caddy earnings.
Below is the final leaderboard of the 2001 Open:
Woosnam surprisingly decided not to fire him stating: “It is the biggest mistake he will make in his life. He won’t do it again. He’s a good caddie. I am not going to sack him. He’s a good lad.”
Ironically, Woosnam did fire his caddie two weeks later when, after a night drinking on the town, Byrne slept in and failed to turn up to tee-time.
Byrne was last seen lugging bricks, having become a construction worker on a building site in Bray, Ireland, according to writers who cover the European Tour. And Ian Woosnam never came close to the leaderboard again. They never spoke after the split but we hear Woosnam checks with Byrne’s brothers, Brian and Dermot, both European Tour caddies, about him.
Watch this below video (or click here) that captures the moments in disappointment of Ian Woosnam.
Mistakes are a part of human beings. Professional golfers are no exceptions to it when it comes to playing by the rules. Some due to ignorance and some just out of oversight. Unfortunately the history of golf has seen several such instances – at times small mistakes costed some players even a tournament. That said, ignorance is not a bliss, at least in golf. Here is a new series from our Scratch Pad desk covering such instances – Costliest Rulings in Golf.
# 1. Roberto De Vicenzo:1968 Masters
Roberto De Vicenzo is the greatest golfer South America has ever produced with 230 tournaments and 8 PGA tours under his belt. But he is remembered not just for what he won, also for what he lost. Yes, you read that right! History always remembers the winners, 1968 masters tournament is an exception.
Roberto De Vicenzo was in mid 40s at the 1968 masters and had just won the British Open the same year. He was in complete control of his game at Augusta and shot a magnificent 65 in the final round to tie Bob Goalby for first place. But something dramatic happened then. Tommy Aaron, his playing partner and who kept De Vicenzo’s score, mistakenly put down a four for the 17th hole instead of a birdie three, which was De Vicenzo’s actual score. De Vicenzo didn’t catch the error and signed it. When he did that, he signed for a 66 instead of a 65, handing the 1968 Masters to Bob Goalby by default and settling with a second place.
Grief-stricken on his mistake, De Vicenzo then uttered what has become one of the most famous quotes in golf, “What a stupid I am!”.
Below is the final leaderboard of the 1968 masters,
Here is what rule of Golf (6-6d) says,
The competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his score card. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified. If he returns a score for any hole higher than actually taken, the score as returned stands.
“For me, the Masters hasn’t ended,” De Vicenzo told Golf Digest in a 2006 interview. “Technically, the ending was legal. But there is something missing. The winner hasn’t yet emerged. It lacks an ending. Someday, maybe in another place, it will be decided” he adds.
De Vicenzo never won another major. Tommy Aaron went on to win the 1973 Masters, where, ironically, he caught a mistake on his scorecard made by his playing partner. Well, that’s a perfect example for learning from the past.