Varner suffers unusual two-stroke penalty
Ruling came after he assembled a club on the course after his round begun at THE PLAYERS
March 14, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Harold Varner III shot a 2-over 74 on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Harold Varner III was the victim of an unusual rules breach during Thursday’s opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Varner III was assessed a two-shot penalty after his round – turning an even-par 72 into a 2-over 74 – for using a club he had assembled on course after his round begun.
The 28-year-old came into his fourth PLAYERS Championship with confidence after a T7 last season at TPC Sawgrass but damaged his driver in his opening round warmup.
Having alerted officials he intended to have it replaced, Varner began his round with just 13 clubs while his agent went to get a replacement.
This is allowed under Rule 4.1b.
Varner wanted to keep the original shaft, but under the same rule he is unable to take the shaft with him on to the course and have the new club assembled during play.
Once he became aware of this, he left the shaft on the tee where his agent could retrieve it and assemble the club in the locker room per the rules.
A walking scorer – hoping to be helpful after seeing the loose piece of equipment – saw the shaft and brought it onto the course for Varner. When the driver head was procured, the club was assembled on course in violation of the rule.
The rule is in place essentially to stop players having clubs built to changing conditions on the course.
Rules officials had no choice but to assess the two-stroke penalty to Varner on the hole he assembled the club, which was the par-5 11th, his second hole of the day.
“We were under the impression he was going to take the driver back to the locker room and his agent was going to come back with another one,” PGA TOUR Vice President of Rules and Competition Mark Russell explained.
“When they brought the head out and assembled it out there, it broke Rule 4. Can't do that. They don't want clubs assembled and adjusted on the golf course. So that's the reason for that rule.
“The rule basically says a player must not build a club from parts carried by anyone for the player during the round. They were aware of that situation, so that's why he received a two-stroke penalty.”
Varner is not accused of deliberately trying to flout the rules; in fact he was in communication with officials throughout but suffered from a misunderstanding.
“Harold was trying not to do anything wrong,” Russell said.
“I guess they (the scorer) were thinking they were helping out or whatever, but when Harold and his caddie were aware that a walking scorer was carrying the golf club and it was assembled on the golf course, that's when it violated the rule.”