Willy Wilcox WDs from Wells Fargo after apparent confusion over penalty for mid-round putter switch

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Willy Wilcox WDs from Wells Fargo after apparent confusion over penalty for mid-round putter switch

PGA Tour

Willy Wilcox WDs from Wells Fargo after apparent confusion over penalty for mid-round putter switch

The Rules of Golf can be a tricky animal, especially when one round is played over two days.

If Willy Wilcox wasn’t aware of that before, he is now as he exits the Wells Fargo Championship.

The 30-year-old withdrew Saturday from the action at Eagle Point Golf Club, but it wasn’t due to injury. This was a bizarre circumstance.

Wilcox was finishing up his second round Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship after darkness suspended play the previous evening. Wilcox began the day on Eagle Point’s fourth hole (his 13th of the round), but he wouldn’t get much further.

Before he could finish his round, he had withdrawn despite not appearing injured. What happened?

Wilcox took to Twitter to explain:

OK, that makes sen– wait, hold on…

Uhh…

So some stuff to unpack here. To say the least.

We don’t know the full details, but based off what Wilcox tweeted, he showed up to the conclusion of his second round Saturday morning with a different putter than he wielded the previous day for the same round.

That is not allowed under the Rules of Golf. Per rule 4-4a, a player who starts a stipulated round with 14 clubs is limited to using those clubs for that round. As in those specific 14 clubs, no changes.

A club can be replaced during a round only if it is damaged during the normal course of play and is deemed unfit for play (rule 4-3aiii).

We can pretty much assume Wilcox was playing with 14 clubs and there is no indication that his original putter was deemed unfit for play (from his comments, it seems Wilcox just wanted to switch putters and forgot at first that he was still considered in the same round as Friday).

The impetus behind the switch then seemed to be that Wilcox was just doing so poorly on the greens and needed a change.

If Wilcox switched his putter for that likely reason, his original flatstick was not “unfit for play,” and thus the alteration meant he was penalized when he self-reported the infraction of replacing one of his 14 clubs mid-round.

Wilcox appeared to have putted out on the fourth and fifth holes Friday before realizing his error, and because the breach of rule 4-4a means a two-stroke penalty per hole the infraction was committed, the penalty would’ve been four shots. (The maximum penalty for the round for this rule is four shots, as the two-strokes-per-hole infraction is only enforced on the first two holes of breach.)

Of course, as Wilcox noted in his tweets, it appears he was told his breach meant disqualification and thus he withdrew from play. If he had been assessed a four-shot penalty as the rules state, Wilcox would have been 7 over with four holes to play in his second round.

With the cut coming in at 1 over, Wilcox probably wouldn’t have made it to the third round even if he’d finished out his second following that penalty.

Regardless, a tough end to this week for Wilcox, who is currently playing the PGA Tour in 2016-17 on conditional status.

Per Wilcox’s Twitter, it looks like his next start on the PGA Tour will come at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which will take place from May 18-21.

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