Commentary

Ten famous rules invocations in golf history

Updated: August 9, 2007, 2:06 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

First things first. Just as Tom Hanks wailed at his Rockford Peaches in "A League of Their Own" -- "There's no crying in baseball!" -- a similar standard could be considered the battle cry of another game using sticks and balls: "There's no cheating in golf!"

Whether implicitly breaking the rules on the course (your Uncle Frank's "footwedge" notwithstanding) or covertly circumventing them off it (we'll let you know when we hear otherwise, Gary Player), golf has always upheld the tradition of the honor code.

That said, there certainly have been times when players broke the rules -- whether they knew it or not -- and were penalized for it. Herewith 10 famous rules invocations in golf history:

Bobby Jones, 1925 U.S. Open

The situation: On a greenside chip from a steep bank, Jones' ball moved ever so slightly just before impact.

The penalty: Rule 18-1 poses this question and answer: "Q. A ball lying in long grass slips vertically downward. Or a ball is accidentally stepped on and pressed down, say a quarter of an inch, in the grass or into the ground. In each case, has the ball moved? A. Yes, unless the ball returns to its original position. The direction of movement is immaterial."

The result: Even though nobody else saw the ball move, Jones called a 1-stroke penalty on himself. Because of this, he failed to win the tournament outright, instead dropping into a playoff with Willie Macfarlane, which he lost in 36 holes.

Porky Oliver, 1940 U.S. Open

The situation: With a storm lurking before the final round, six players -- Oliver, E.J. Harrison, Leland Gibson, Johnny Bulla, Ky Laffoon and Claude Harmon -- teed off before their scheduled start time to avoid the worst of the weather.

The penalty: According to Rule 6-3a/2.5: "When a starting time is listed as 9:00 a.m., the starting time is deemed to be 9:00:00 a.m. and the player is subject to penalty under Rule 6-3a if he is not present and ready to play at 9:00:00 a.m. Therefore, the player is disqualified unless circumstances warrant waiving the penalty under Rule 33-7."

The result: Although all six players were disqualified, Oliver was the one who suffered most. A final-round 71 was enough to put him into a playoff with Gene Sarazen and Lawson Little, but it wasn't to be for Oliver -- despite pleas from his fellow competitors.

Roberto De Vicenzo, 1968 Masters

The situation: In the final round, De Vicenzo carded a birdie 3 on Augusta National's 17th hole but later signed his scorecard with a 4, giving him a round of 68 rather than the 67 he actually had shot.

The penalty: A player who signs an incorrect scorecard for a lower score is disqualified; one who signs for a higher score must keep that as his final total.

The result: Rather than reaching a playoff with Bob Goalby, De Vicenzo fell 1 stroke short. He muttered afterward, "What a stupid I am."

Craig Stadler, 1987 Andy Williams Open

The situation: While playing a shot from his knees in dewy grass on the 14th hole in the third round, Stadler placed a towel beneath him to avoid getting his pants wet.

The penalty: Rule 13-3/2 seems to have been built for this specific violation: "Q. A player's ball was under a tree in such a position that he found it expedient to play his next stroke while on his knees. Because the ground was wet, the player placed a towel on the ground at the spot where his knees would be situated so that the knees of his trousers would not get wet. He then knelt on the towel and played his stroke. Was the player subject to penalty under Rule 13-3 for building a stance? A. Yes."

The result: Stadler completed the rest of his third round and the entire final round, ostensibly finishing in second place before being informed that he had been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard after not giving himself a penalty the previous day.

Lee Janzen, 1998 NEC World Series of Golf

The situation: On the 17th hole in the first round, Janzen's putt hung on the lip of the cup. After he watched it for more than the allotted 10 seconds, the ball finally dropped into the hole.

The penalty: Janzen signed for a 3 but later learned it should have been a 4 because he didn't mark his ball -- or tap it in -- within the given time frame; TV replays later showed the ball dropped after hanging on the edge for 19 seconds.

The result: Without the penalty stroke, Janzen was guilty of signing an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified.

Tiger Woods, 1999 Phoenix Open

The situation: Woods hit a tee shot well left and found his ball resting directly behind a boulder. He enlisted a handful of gallery members to move the large rock, giving him a clear shot at the green.

The penalty: Believe it or not, there was none because that boulder was deemed a loose impediment. Rule 23-1/3 states: "Q. May spectators, caddies, fellow-competitors, etc., assist a player in removing a large loose impediment? A. Yes."

The result: Woods did not receive a penalty and went on to finish third in the tournament.

Ian Woosnam, 2001 British Open

The situation: After completing his opening hole -- a par 3 on which he made birdie -- Woosnam stepped to the second tee box only to have this exchange with his caddie, Miles Byrne: "You're going to go ballistic," Byrne told him. "Why?" Woosnam asked. "We've got two drivers in the bag," the caddie replied.

The penalty: Rule 4-4a/6 states: "Q. A arrives at the 1st tee, counts his clubs and confirms that he is carrying 14. He then removes his driver from his golf bag, leaves the bag beside the tee and checks in with the starter. At this point, X, a player in another match or group, by mistake puts his putter in A's golf bag, which was identical to X's bag. A then drives from the 1st tee. During play of the 1st hole, A discovers that X's club has been put in his (A's) golf bag. Does A incur a penalty for starting the round with more than 14 clubs? A. Yes."

The result: Woosnam fired the extra driver into a nearby tree, gave himself a 2-stroke penalty and soon fell out of contention in the tournament.

Michelle Wie, 2005 Samsung World Championship

The situation: In her first pro tournament, Wie took a penalty drop from an unplayable lie in the third round. One day later, a reporter revealed to officials that he believed the drop was illegal because it placed her closer to the hole.

The penalty: After reviewing tape, officials found that Wie had indeed taken an illegal drop.

The result: As the round was already complete and Wie had signed her scorecard, she was disqualified for taking an incorrect score.

Tiger Woods, 2006 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

The situation: On the ninth hole of the second round, Woods hit a 9-iron onto the clubhouse roof at Firestone.

The penalty: After much consternation -- because the clubhouse was not deemed to be out of bounds and officials learned the ball had been picked up and removed by a clubhouse worker -- Woods took a drop on the line the ball had traveled.

The result: From the relief point, Woods made bogey, shooting 64 for the day. He won the tournament in a playoff two days later.

Mark Wilson, 2007 Honda Classic

The situation: In the second round, Wilson's caddie, Chris Jones, divulged to a playing partner the loft of a hybrid club Wilson had just used.

The penalty: Rule 8-1 states that no advice may be given by anyone other than the player's own caddie.

The result: Aware of this rule, Wilson slapped himself with a 2-stroke penalty. He went on to win the tournament in a playoff.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.