Palmer narrowly avoids another rules dilemma

Ryan Palmer plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation course on January 4, 2011 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Ryan Palmer plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation course on January 4, 2011 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Some sidelights to a sun-splashed day in paradise as third-round play of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions unfolded in windy, but warm conditions.

• • •

Want a rule book with that hot dog?

As if PGA Tour players didn’t already know it, they surely do now.

Big brother is watching.

“Everyone’s a rules official, I guess,” Ryan Palmer said.

His bogey-free round of 5-under 68 had him in a good mood, at least until he got a bit of a scare. Waiting for him in the scorer’s trailer was PGA Tour rules official John Mutch. Palmer immediately knew the source of inquiry: his fatted wedge into the green at the par-4 14th.

“I hit it fat and was disgusted,” Palmer said, “and I immediately went to fix the (divot), kicking in the sides of the hole.”

The ball never quite made it up onto the elevated green, however, and rolled back down the slope. Yes, it looked eerily similar to Thursday’s situation when Camilo Villegas’ incurred a two-stroke penalty that led to his disqualification, only Mutch heard Palmer out and determined that it wasn’t a penalty. For one thing, the ball rolled well to the right of where his divot was; for another, Palmer wasn’t brushing debris out of way.

But while Palmer’s 68 was intact, he shook his head and conceded a bit of anxiety. All because a fan watched the play and reported what he thought was a rules violation to Mutch, who was roving the back nine in his golf cart.

Villegas’ infraction was spotted on TV and reported via Twitter, eventually reaching PGA Tour officials here on Maui. By the time they could review it, however, Villegas already had signed his card, so in essence the two-stroke penalty led to his DQ.

It wasn’t nearly that bad for Palmer, though it served as a reminder. “They’re watching,” he said, “and they’ll say something.”

• • •

The big day approaches

Hunter Mahan looks like he’s just come out of winter hibernation in the woods. But that could change very soon, because with his wedding coming up next Saturday, Mahan confirmed he’ll probably shave the beard.

“Probably be a clean wedding,” said Mahan, who’ll marry his girlfriend, Kandi Harris, in Dallas.

The guest list will include PGA Tour colleagues Ben Crane and John Rollins (Sean O’Hair is invited, though his wife, Jackie, is nearing the delivery date for the couple’s fourth child).

As for the honeymoon, Aspen is the choice.

Why Aspen? Mahan shrugged. He and Kandi were on vacation last week in Hawaii, so sun and fun was off the checklist. Aspen provides them the chance to try skiing, something they’ve never done, but have wanted to try.

Asked if it was tough playing a tournament the week before his wedding, Mahan smiled.

“There’s been some energy taken away from the golf,” he said, “but it’s just life.”

• • •

Tough start

With the Kona winds taking over, as opposed to the normal trade winds, the 520-yard, par-4 first hole was a brute.

“I hit driver, 3-wood, and I can’t remember the last time I hit a 3-wood into a par 4,” Charley Hoffman said.

He was one of 11 players to make bogey at the first, which played toughest, at a field average of 4.469.

Robert Garrigus, who started the third round with a two-shot lead, made one of two double bogeys and quickly went from pace-setter to on the chase.

There were no birdies at the first, after yielding five in Round 1 and four in Round 2.

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