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Devil Ball Golf

One wispy leaf could have cost Carl Pettersson half a million dollars

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

We've written in this space before about the rather overly-officious nature of golf's rules — you know, like the ones that can get you disqualified if you fail to pile sand properly on your ball when replacing it in its lie. Naturally, every time anyone broaches the question of whether maybe, just maybe, the rules of golf might be verging on the absurd, along come the usual troupe of bureaucratic ninnies to trumpet that golf is great because of its rules! No, golf is great despite many of its rules ... and will remain great no matter how hard the rules twits try to deny basic common sense.

Case in point: the above video starring one Carl Pettersson. On his backswing on the first hole, he tipped a leaf. A leaf! And for that mortal sin, because he moved a loose impediment in a hazard while his ball was in the same hazard, he received a two-stroke penalty ... but only after rules officials Zaprudered the film to be able to tell if he actually did brush the leaf. Pettersson was informed of his grave breach on the fourth hole, and though he tried to protest, the writing was already on the wall ... and, more importantly, on the two penalty strokes added to his scorecard.

[Related: Winners and losers from an incredible PGA Championship week]

"I double checked with the official to make sure I could brush the grass as long as I didn't put any weight on the ground with the clubhead, and he said sure," Pettersson said, as Golf Digest reported afterward. "I wish he would have mentioned the leaves, too. I was just trying to hit the ball. I didn't even think twice about it."

Pettersson accepted the punishment, but not its rationale. "I've got to take it on the chin, obviously. I broke the rule there," said Petterson. "I don't think it affected the outcome of the shot. It's just one of those things. We have a lot of stupid rules in golf."

"That (rule) is designed so an amateur doesn't drag his club back and make a channel for themselves (to make it easier to hit the ball out of a hazard)," CBS's David Feherty said, as reported by Golf Channel. "What do you think would happen if a pro did that out there? I think [rule-makers] can account for that. How are you supposed to make a backswing? Use the club like a spear?"

[Eric Adelson: Rory McIlroy's PGA Championship win elevates his status]

Look, we're not denying the need for rules. And yes, as the rules do exist in their present form, then yes, Pettersson was correctly penalized. But there has to be some measure of common sense employed here. There is absolutely zero advantage gained, zero impact on the game itself. (Not that it would have mattered in the face of Rory McIlroy's thorough vanquishing of the field at the PGA Championship, but the principle remains the same.) Pettersson would go on to finish T3 at -4, while the two strokes would have given him sole possession of second place.

"Sucks for me," Pettersson said. "I would have finished second on my own." Maybe yes and maybe no, but what's indisputable is that while Pettersson earned $384,500 (not bad for a week's work) for finishing in a tie for third, he would have earned $865,000, nearly half a million more, if he'd finished alone in second.

Sure, you can hide behind the idea that any rule is a valid rule, and every application of a rule is a valid application. But in situations like this, with a major championship on the line, there's absolutely no excuse for blowing a hole in Pettersson's round for such a ticky-tack foul. So if you can figure a way to defend this, you've got a job waiting for you in the world of golf bureaucracy.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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