For the second time this season, the Rules of Golf have cost Graeme McDowell some strokes. Earlier this year, at the opening round of the European PGA Championship, his round ended on a sour note with a triple bogey 8 and a score of two over par 74. He incurred a two-shot penalty on the 18th hole at Wentworth because of a rules violation. After an errant tee shot into some bushes, he tried to take a look at his ball and as he approached it, he thought the ball moved. Rather than calling a Rules Official over right away, he went ahead and punched out, and then as he was walking down the fairway, he called over a Rules Official and asked him to take a look at the TV footage because he wasn’t sure if the ball had moved. Even though he could not have necessarily prevented the ball from moving and he didn’t gain an advantageous lie, he should not have waited to approach the Official.
High def, slow-mo camera work showed his ball rotating a few dimples. That was a one shot penalty, and since he didn’t replace the ball, he was slapped with another shot.
This past week, at the opening round of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick, he walked off the course feeling pretty good about his eagle-birdie finish. After leaving the scoring tent moments later, his mood had changed considerably. McDowell incurred a two-stroke on his final hole because he grazed a leaf while addressing his ball in a bunker. He had a small branch with a leaf attached to it and in the process of addressing the ball he grazed the top of the leaf. It was deemed he had touched a loose impediment in a hazard which is a two-stroke penalty. Instead of a 66, McDowell signed for a 68.
In either case, McDowell was not happy and ultimately those penalty shots cost him money. He is a seasoned player and one of the more knowledgeable players on the rules, but in both cases he admitted to some doubt as how to proceed. What really baffles me is that he access to a Rules Official and he did not use this resource to assist him. Rules Officials are not just out on the course to administer penalties, they are also there to guide players through situations. I am not sure if he went brain dead in both instances, but I sure hope he learned from his mistakes and in the future will rely the Rules Officials he has available to him before making any more costly blunders.
Frank Guastella, PGA Master Professional
Michigan PGA Rules Official
Staff Writer for Mike Fay Golf