By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ashley Hall can only presume he gave himself too good a lie. If nothing else, it proved unsustainable.
It certainly can’t be common for a golfer to take a penalty for a ball he placed on the fairway under lift, clean and place rules – but it turned out to be the only obstacle between Hall and a bogey-free round to begin the Web.com Tour Championship on Thursday.
“The ball moved,” said the Aussie, who even with the blemish zoomed to the top of the leaderboard with a 7-under 63.
“I essentially put it on that good a lie that the Bermudagrass isn’t strong enough to hold the ball, I’m finding out now.”
With the Dye’s Valley course soaked from early-week rains and more expected, Thursday’s opening round was played under lift, clean and place rules. Balls in the fairway could be marked and cleaned without penalty.
Hall split the fairway with his drive at the par-4 15th, then went through the process of cleaning his ball and setting it gently back on the grass. But as he set up for his next shot, he thought he detected a slight shift.
“I’d gone in and addressed the ball and (the movement) was just catching my eye,” he said. “I’m pretty certain no one else could see it. My caddie didn’t see it. It just sort of caught me off – ‘What’s going on?’
“I went in and put the club down again and I could tell it was in a way worse lie. It was settling down in the grass.”
Hall called for a rules official, who informed him that because the ball hadn’t returned to its previous spot he needed to add a stroke to his score.
The ensuing bogey dropped Hall out of a share of the lead at 5 under, but he rebounded with two birdies in his final three holes to take the lead for himself.
As it turns out, it was the second consecutive event in which Hall was penalized for a moving ball. He also had to add a stroke at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship when his ball shifted as he was trying to clear twigs away.
“The same day Tiger’s thing happened,” Hall said, noting Tiger Woods’ penalty at the BMW Championship that also stemmed from trying to remove twigs and leaves from around his ball at Conway Farms.