What they said: Mark Russell

May 10, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS Championship transcript archive

LAURA HILL: We'd like to welcome vice president of rules and competition, Mark Russell. Everyone has the statement, maybe just a quick recap on what happened this morning and we'll open it up to questions.

MARK RUSSELL: Very unusual situation. In my 31 years on the golf tour, I can never remember a player withdrawing right before he's supposed to play. It happened very quickly. We didn't have time to react, but 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, and at the time, he didn't have a tee time.

So we re-assigned him a tee time this afternoon. He's going to play as a single. Then he'll play in the morning off the 10th tee as a single.

We didn't have time to put him with his group, because they had already teed off and gone on to the second hole. Very unique situation. I mean, I've never seen anything like it really.

Q. Has anyone talked to D.A. Points??

MARK RUSSELL: I haven't talked to D.A.

Q. Has anyone??

MARK RUSSELL: Not really that I know of.

Q. Does a lot of this onus fall on him??

MARK RUSSELL: D.A. was within his rights. He withdrew before he played a shot.

Q. Ordinarily, wouldn't a player say something to give a heads-up to his caddie or somebody that maybe his back was a little tweaky --

MARK RUSSELL: Larry, you're right. I mean, yeah, 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. 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. We just didn't have time to react at this time.

There's a lot going on on the golf course at this time. I'm on the golf course setting up. We just didn't have time to react to it. And once we got our heads together and thought about it, I know we've done the right thing in handling this. It's basic protocol. It would be like a situation where at Pebble Beach withdraws at the last second, we send them over to Monterrey or Spyglass or wherever and assign a new time and maybe let some groups go ahead of them. It's definitely a protocol situation.

Q. Is Greg Owen now the first alternate? I know he's on his way from Orlando.

MARK RUSSELL: Yes, he is.

Q. Is there a stipulation that if the first alternate is not around to replace someone that WDs, that at some point you do away with the alternate list? Is that the way it works, or have I misunderstood this?

MARK RUSSELL: I believe that's the way it would work, if the alternates are not here.

Matter of fact, we got into a very deep conversation with Jeff Hall about that, USGA. We are going to have a major discussion on that.

Q. Will there be any consideration going forward to policy, or is there just talk about within a certain amount of time, you guys have to be made aware of this, as opposed to right at the last second, saying, I can't play??

MARK RUSSELL: I think that would be very difficult to do. Once a player has played a shot, you know, he's started his round. D.A. Points at that time had not started his round.

Q. But prior to, that let's just say, okay, I'm not feeling good, you know what, if you're not feeling good or you have to inform you guys that -- we need to know within a half hour of your time, 15 minutes of your time, that you can't play, as opposed to, literally being on the tee and saying, I can't play.

MARK RUSSELL: You know, we can look at that. We never really thought about that. It's never happened. I can't ever remember it happening before.

Q. He said on the first tee, "I can't play." Who then told you guys, or your staff? Did D.A. himself? Did the starter tell you?

MARK RUSSELL: Well, the starter went ahead and announced the next player. The next player takes his time to play, and when they start walking off the tee, the ShotLink people don't have a thing for D.A. Points, and then Clay Neely, who oversees the starter, he's there making sure that all three players are there on the tee on time, which they were. He took note of that and never remotely entered his mind that someone was going to withdraw.

Then coming down the fairway, that's when he talked, and one of the other players told him, D.A. couldn't play.

Q. Told who??

MARK RUSSELL: He withdrew at the last second. Clay Neely. And the ShotLink people had called to let us know that, and then Clay let us know that.

Q. Is there a protocol that you're supposed to follow to withdraw from a tournament, and did D.A. follow it??

MARK RUSSELL: Well, I mean, he can withdraw and be replaced by an alternate any time before he strikes the first shot in a stipulated round.

Q. But is he supposed to notify someone??

MARK RUSSELL: Normally that happens. Like I say, I can't remember somebody getting ready to strike and just, "I can't play." Usually they know that beforehand.

But D.A., he was within his rights the way he handled it.

Q. I may have missed it. You may have just answered. You said ready to strike, but I read that he put the ball in the ground. He teed it up and then stood up and then his back tweaked on him and that's when he decided; is that correct? Is that how it happened?

MARK RUSSELL: I wasn't there. I all I know is he was announced to play and before then, he told the starter there, gave him his card back and said, "I can't go."

And then the starter announced the next player, and then the next player went into his routine and played.

Q. He went through his routine -- you don't know if he went through his routine, he was waggling??

MARK RUSSELL: I don't know. It was his turn to play. He had been announced. He was within 30, 40 seconds of striking a shot.

Q. Just kind of following up, what sort of is the process? I know it obviously sounds like you haven't really experienced this, but is there that process in place, a guy gets to the first tee, says he can't play; does someone get on a walkie-talkie -- what sort of process happens?

MARK RUSSELL: Usually the alternates check in with us, which Brian did.

You know, I'll be on the putting green or player dining or the range or whatever, and we are tuned in. We have their phone numbers and we are tuned into that. But we are usually alerted, you know, more in advance than this situation.

Q. Who did the alerting in the situation on the first tee, was it the starter or was it Clay??

MARK RUSSELL: ShotLink and Clay realized that D.A. wasn't playing at basically the same time.

Q. So there's not somebody with a walkie-talkie??

MARK RUSSELL: Clay Neely has that. But Clay Neely is looking to make sure those players are there on the tee on time, which they were. Never entered his mind that D.A. wasn't going to play, or any of the players weren't going to play for that matter.

Q. Sorry, just trying to get the order of events. What caused him to realize D.A. wasn't playing? Was it the ShotLink information or physically seeing him?

MARK RUSSELL: Physically seeing those players, when the players told him.

Q. I hate to go back to this, so what would be the protocol, say Brian is not on the first tee to be the alternate; how deep will you go into the alternate list??

MARK RUSSELL: We would go as far as we could. But who was here? You know, we would know how many alternates are here. Greg Owen is the second alternate. He's going to be here this afternoon.

You know, our advance officials would be on that. Our starters would be on that. We would know how many alternates were here on site. That's a common question to ask before the tournament starts, how many alternates are here, and we would talk to them. They usually look us up, because they are fired up about playing and they want to make sure that we know where they are and they are ready to go.

Q. And then was the thought ever given to just split the last threesome up into two twosomes??

MARK RUSSELL: We are going to send him out as a single. When he could not play as a group, we decided to send him as a single rather than break some other groups up.

Q. Is there an amount of time that you would think that a player would need that is an alternate and might be on the putting green or on the practice tee that would be needed for them to get to that first tee to catch up with a group? Like D.A. did it at the last minute. But about how much time would there be needed for a guy to make it from the practice tee or the practice green?

MARK RUSSELL: We would send a player straight there. We would want a player to go straight there immediately. That player doesn't have a time. At the time the committee had not laid a time down for him.

But once a player has withdrawn, we would plug him right in and he would know that. If it's a situation that he knew 30 minutes ahead of time and assigned him a tee time, that would be his tee time.

In this situation, it happened so quickly, he didn't have a time.

Q. Is it too big of an inconvenience to ask the No. 1 alternate to be in position as each group goes there to see if something like this happens, he would be right there, and be able to tee off??

MARK RUSSELL: If he was on the first tee and somebody withdrew on the 10th, we'd have to send him over there. We've got two places he's playing from.

He's alerted the committee where he is. We have his phone number and we have ways of getting a hold of him. We would like for a player to be standing there, that would be great, but that's just not the way it works all the time. We have no idea if somebody is going to withdraw or somebody is going to get in or not. We don't know that situation. Every situation is different.

Q. We heard in here, and I don't know how factual it is, they looked for Brian on the range and the putting green and couldn't find him.

MARK RUSSELL: That's right.

Q. So, I mean, it seems to me that if a guy is first alternate and it's such a big deal to get in the field, that they were obligated to be in a certain spot --

MARK RUSSELL: Brian did nothing wrong. He contacted us this morning; look, I'm here, you guys got my phone number, I'm going to be here. You know, it was just such a quick sequence of events, we didn't have time to act on it.

Q. Is there anything that precludes you from putting him into the group that he would have been with today, tomorrow? Or does he have to go off as a one tomorrow?

MARK RUSSELL: Well, we want him to play late/early, that situation.

Q. So then to clarify, he's going off five minutes before --


Q. So he'll do 7:10 tomorrow morning??

MARK RUSSELL: That's right. Off the 10th tee.

LAURA HILL: Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.