Where did that extra club come from?

Jim Furyk has run into bad luck with the rules—from both golf and the PGA Tour–in the Barclays Championship, the first stop on the Fed Ex Cup, the past two years that have proven costly.

Furyk overslept and missed his tee time for the pro-am by 10 minutes this year and was disqualified from the tournament itself by one of the rules established by the PGA Tour to reportedly ensure the participation of the players in these preliminary events. Surprisingly, the Tour quickly moved to change this rule. Furyk recovered to take the $10 million Fed Ex prize anyway by winning the Tour Championship with a saving par from the bunker on the last hole, making him a perfect 9 for 9 in getting up and down from bunkers for the event.

Usually the touring golf professionals and their caddies are good about making sure that there are only 14 clubs in their bags (Rule 4-4) before they venture out on the golf course for tournament play. However, Furyk and Mike “Fluff” Cowan slipped up in the third round of the 2009 Barclays.

Furyk discovered the extra club—a second 60-degree wedge with more bounce—when playing a shot near the second green and had to take a two-stroke penalty for each hole, turning pars into double bogeys. Furyk put the error behind him and rallied to post a 70. He then closed with a 69 to finish at minus three (281) in a tie for 15th, six strokes behind winner Heath Slocum. He would have finished tied for sixth without the penalty strokes. It cost him $131,250.

One of the reasons the extra club went unnoticed was that it was raining and there was a rain hood on the bag during the warm up session and to start the round.

“It was a chain of events that added up to a stupid mistake,” Furyk said. “I assumed he (Cowan) knew I was going to play this 60 and he didn’t know which way I was going to go. The last thing I want to do is blame it on Mike. The fact that we both made the error is what surprises me. That’s the shocker. I can see one person being a bonehead for 30 minutes, but two people is disappointing.”

Ian Woosman, however, did lay the blame on his caddie when he got to the second tee during the British Open a few years back and discovered two drivers. The first hole was a par 3 or otherwise, the error could have been corrected before play started. A Claret Jug might have been his for the taking without the two-stroke penalty.

Four strokes is the maximum penalty in stroke play. In match play, the penalty is lost of hole, maximum of two. The penalty is not applied to individual holes, but to the status of the match at the time the extra club is discovered. So if a player carrying an extra club was 2 up, then the match would be even; if he was 2 down, he would be 4 down.

If discovered after the tournament has been completed, it’s too late for any penalty. A junior golfer up north tried to return a trophy when he discovered an extra club on returning home, showing true sportsmanship, but he really didn’t need to do so.

Tim Pade of the Desert Golfer told me of a time where his club pro erred in applying the penalty for an extra club that was discovered in his partner’s bag at the conclusion of a four-ball match. The penalty does apply to the team, but should have only been the lost of two more holes, not a DQ and lost of all nine holes.

Sometimes common sense has to be used as in the case that occurred in the 2009 Gulf States PGA Section Championship when it appeared that Reed Hughes had won a playoff with Phil Schmidt on the third extra hole after the pair deadlocked at 138 for 36 holes. However, moments after the apparent victory, Hughes was disqualified for violating the 14-club club rule. It seems there was a weighted warm-up club stuffed behind the seat of his golf cart—not even in his golf bag as I understood.

If this had been discovered before he signed his scorecard, Hughes would have just been penalized four strokes—two on each of the first two holes. However, since it was after, he was disqualified, forfeiting a $3,600 paycheck and a spot in the 2009 PGA Professional Championship.

The punishment certainly does not seem to befit the crime. I would agree with Hughes when he said, “The device had nothing to do with the outcome of the tournament.” I would also agree with Hughes that it would be hard for a club pro to call on a member. “I never want to have to apply this rule to a member for a club he’s never going to use on the golf course,” Hughes said.

So be sure count your clubs before your start when playing in a tournament

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