Allen calls penalty on himself for moving two pinecones

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Michael Allen called a two-shot penalty on himself in the second round on Saturday.
April 20, 2013

By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
DULUTH, Ga. -- Michael Allen knew almost instantly that what he had done was improper.
Allen, the early second-round leader of the Greater Gwinnett Championship, penalized himself two strokes for an infraction during play of the fourth hole Saturday. Allen removed two pine cones that were in the path of his swing, slightly ahead of his ball.

He did so only to discover the pine cones were embedded and not, in reality, loose impediments.
“Out of habit, I pushed them away, not to hurt myself,” Allen said. “That’s when I realized they were embedded and I knew I had kind of done something wrong, and (thought), ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’”
Allen made playing partner Mark O’Meara aware of what he had done and went on to make double-bogey 7 on the hole. Allen followed with another double bogey at the next on his way to shooting a 73. But three birdies on the final 12 holes left him at 4 under through 36 holes and only two shots behind leader Esteban Toledo.
“Just a habit, an innate thought,” Allen said of his action. “Nobody wants to get hurt, nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. If I didn’t do it I might not be playing right now. They were in there. Maybe it was worth it.”
There was no hesitation to call himself on the infraction, Allen said.
“I think most guys that play the game, that’s kind of the basis of our game,” he said. “That’s why it’s unique. I sit on the sidelines of the (Phoenix) Suns games and how many times do you see a player pointing to someone, ‘Oh, he did it. He did it.’ That’s not our game. Our game is about integrity. It’s about following the rules and abiding by them.
“That was something pretty obvious to me. I do know the rules well enough. Once I did it, I certainly knew it. There’s no reason to cheat. If I have to cheat to win, I don’t want to win. The other thing is, too, that I couldn’t go out and compete knowing that I cheated, that I didn’t play by the rules.”

On the surface, a pine cone would appear to be a loose impediment. However, a key to the definition of a loose impediment is the effort required to remove it, according to rules officials at the Greater Gwinnett. If it can be flicked away or easily picked up, that’s a loose impediment. If it takes some effort to pull something away, that’s not considered a loose impediment.
“What he (Allen) did, that’s integrity -- that’s what the game is about,” Toledo said. “It’s integrity and loving the game. I missed the cut twice when I called a penalty on myself for moving the ball when nobody else saw it. People remember (things like that).”

Bernhard Langer said, “That only happens in the game of golf.”