A common breach of Rules in Club golf is failing to replace a ball on the putting green where it had come to rest before being marked to the side, at the request of a fellow competitor who is putting on a similar line. However, it does not often happen following the very last putt by the tournament leader on the 18th green of the final day of a Tour event. That is exactly what happened to Zach Johnson on Sunday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Fort Worth, Texas. As he stood on the first tee he was three strokes ahead of the second-placed man, Jason Duffner. However, by the 18th hole his thoughts were obviously somewhere else, as first he teed off out of turn, inadvertently taking the honour from his fellow competitor, Jason Dufner. Fortunately, there is no penalty in stroke play for playing out of turn, providing the correct order has not been changed to give a player an advantage (Rule 10-2c). Then, he put his second shot into a greenside bunker, splashing out to about five feet from the hole, where he marked his ball. Dufner was putting on a similar line and asked Johnson to mark his ball to the side, which he did. Dufner missed his putt but then holed out, so that his fellow competitor could take the limelight. As Johnson stood over this putt to close out the tournament he must have been more relaxed, thinking that he had three putts to win. In fact, because he had not replaced his ball where it was originally marked, he was putting from the wrong place and needed to hole the putt to avoid a play-off. The Rule that he breached was Rule 20-7c. Decision 20-7c/1 clarifies;
Q. In stroke play, a competitor in replacing his ball on the putting green inadvertently put the ball in a wrong place nearby and holed out. The error was then discovered and the competitor put his ball in the right place and holed out. What is the ruling?
A. The score with the ball played from the wrong place counts and the competitor must add two penalty strokes to that score (Rule 16-1b or 20-3a and 20-7c).
The competitor incurs no penalty for having putted from the right place after holing out from a wrong place.Note that you do not have to return to where you originally marked your ball in these circumstances. The score from the wrong place counts, including the penalty of two strokes.
Zach Johnson was celebrating his win with his caddie, Damon Green, who had been busily raking the bunker when his player was marking his ball to the side; both of them blissfully unaware of the breach. It appears that it might have been Peter Kostis, the on-course CBS reporter who first brought it to the attention of a Rules Official, who in turn notified the caddie, who broke the news to Johnson. He immediately realised that he had indeed played from the wrong place and had to think twice before realising that he had still won without the need for a play off. He entered the double bogey score of 6 for the hole, before signing his card and returning it to the scorers. The two-stroke penalty dropped Johnson to 12 under for the tournament, just one shot ahead of Dufner. Johnson’s summed it up during a post-round interview by saying,
"There are a number of adjectives that I am calling myself right now. Lucky would be the biggest one I can think of."I have a good tip for Zach Johnson and all of you who read this blog. When I mark my ball to the side on the putting green I turn my putter upside down and hold it by the club-head. This acts as a trigger for me to replace the ball when it is my turn to putt. I understand that Tiger Woods flips his coin to the ‘wrong’ side in the same situation. It works for us (!) and I recommend that you use a similar trigger.
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