Russell Henley assessed 8 penalty shots in oddball ruling at Mayakoba

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Russell Henley assessed 8 penalty shots in oddball ruling at Mayakoba

PGA Tour

Russell Henley assessed 8 penalty shots in oddball ruling at Mayakoba

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The Rules of Golf continue to flummox players on every level.

During Saturday’s second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Russell Henley became the latest player to face the consequences of a rules violation, and with some level of surprise. Henley was assessed eight penalty shots when he discovered a different model of golf ball in his bag than what he usually uses, and the rules committee and Henley assumed that he must have used that ball at some point during his round.

According to PGA Tour Communications, Henley was signing golf balls for fans when he noticed that one of the balls in his golf bag was a slightly different model than the kind of ball he uses. According to the statement, which was posted to Twitter, Henley didn’t know how that got in his bag. Henley self-reported his possible violation to the rules officials onsite.

Tour pros typically keep new, unused balls in one pocket in their bags, then place used balls into another pocket after they are taken out of play. Henley apparently found the different model of ball in his used-ball pocket, leading himself and the committee to assume he had unwittingly used it at some point during the round.

The PGA Tour uses a one-ball rule, which means players can only use one specific brand and model of ball during a round. The penalty for using a different model is two strokes per hole that the ball is used, maximum of eight strokes.

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This one-ball rule typically is used only in high levels of competition and does not apply to most everyday amateurs out for a round of golf. Recreational amateurs can carry as many brands or models as they like and use a different brand or model on every hole, if they choose. There are other rules about substituting a ball during the play of any given hole, such as when a ball is damaged, but recreational players are allowed to change models of ball on each tee before the start of any given hole.

And it’s not against the rules for a Tour player to carry a different brand or model of ball in their bag even when the one-ball rule is in effect. It’s only a penalty if they use that different ball.

That’s where the Henley situation got tricky, because it was an unusual circumstance and he didn’t know how the ball got in his bag. Like the balls he normally uses, it was a Titleist Pro V1x. But it was a slightly different model with one different marking on the ball. Henley told officials there was no doubt he unwittingly must have used the ball at some point in the round.

As per Rule 20-3, which relates to “situations not covered by the Rules,” the committee ruled that Henley must have used the improper ball during his round, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty on Nos. 9-12. Those eight strokes – which meant he took a double bogey on all four holes – pushed him to a second-round 77.

Henley had opened with 66. The penalty strokes dropped him more than 80 spots on the leaderboard, ultimately depositing him outside the cutline.

Prior to this week, Henley was 4-for-4 in cuts made in the 2020 PGA Tour season.

It’s another rules headline in a month that has been full of them. Most recently, two amateur women representing the U.S. at the Spirit International Amateur were disqualified for a four-ball scoring error. Days before that, much was made of penalties assessed at the LPGA Q-Series for a violation of the advice rule, covered by Rule 10-2a.

Also in the “bizarre” category, European Tour player Eddie Pepperell fired his entire ball supply into a pond beside the fourth green at last week’s Turkish Airlines Open, eventually walking off the course when he ran out of golf balls – which earned him a DQ anyway.

If there’s any bright side, it’s that Henley suffered penalty shots instead of an immediate disqualification.

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