By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- After having to wait nearly 3 hours to discover his fate, first alternate Brian Harman finally teed off in THE PLAYERS Championship as a single at 12:05 p.m. ET Thursday, 5 minutes ahead of the first scheduled tee time in the afternoon wave at TPC Sawgrass.
In a bizarre twist of events, D. A. Points withdrew with a back injury just as his name was announced on the first tee for his 8:39 a.m. ET tee time. That news, however, didn’t reach officials or Harman until it was too late with the other two members of the group, Carl Pettersson and Robert Garrigus, having already teed off and moved on to the next hole.
“In my 31 years on the golf tour, I can never remember a player withdrawing right before he's supposed to play,” PGA TOUR Vice President of Rules and Competition Mark Russell said. “It happened very quickly. We didn't have time to react. Once we were able to sit down and get our heads around this, figure out exactly what the situation is, we decided that Brian Harman had done everything that we had asked him to do.”
When Harman arrived at the golf course 7 a.m. Thursday, he alerted officials he was on site and gave them his phone number. When the news of Points’ WD reached Harman, he was in the caddie area playing ping-pong with his caddie John Davenport.
“By the time the information got from the tee box to [officials], it’s already over,” Harman said “There was nothing they could do about it.”
Thankfully there was.
Rules officials convened and even reached out to USGA managing director of rules and competition Jeff Hall to figure out a solution. They decided the best decision was to “re-assign” Harman a tee time (UPDATE: Harman will take Paul Casey’s 8:50 a.m. tee time on Friday after Casey withdrew Thursday).
“Brian did nothing wrong,” Russell said. “Usually the alternates check in with us, which Brian did. He contacted us this morning, said I'm here, you guys got my phone number, I'm going to be here. It was just such a quick sequence of events, we didn't have time to act on it.”
Mostly because of Points’ last-second decision to pull out of the tournament.
Points had already left the property and wasn’t immediately available for comment, but Russell said Points was well within his rights.
“I don't want to throw D.A. under the bus; It might have been a situation where he thought, well, this has happened before, I played a couple of holes and it felt better,” Russell said. “I know he wants to play in THE PLAYERS Championship, but he got up there, and they announced the first player and he played and they announced D.A. and he says, ‘I can't play.’ And then the starter went ahead and announced the third player.”
With Harman now in the field, Greg Owen, who was on his way up from Orlando, moved up to first alternate.
This marks the third time Harman has made it into the field as an alternate this year. The other two times came at the Transitions Championship and The Honda Classic, where he nearly shot 59 in the second round before settling for a 61 on his way to a tie for 12th.
Harman seemed to handle it all in stride Thursday. “I guess I need to play better,” he joked.