As he walked off the final green after completing the second round of the Mayakoba Classic, Russell Henley was in contention to win his fourth PGA Tour title and his first in almost three years.
Or so he thought.
Instead, he spent the weekend at home after a simple but costly mistake saw him hit with an eight-shot penalty.
Henley, 30, was signing balls for fans after completing his second round when he noticed that one of them was a slightly different model than the Titleist Pro V1x he regularly uses. He later said he was unsure how the ball got in his bag but knew that he had used it from holes nine to 12.
That was a breach of golf’s little-known ‘One Ball Rule’, which is applied on the PGA Tour, as well as most pro and top amateur events. The rule says: “When changing balls, the player is permitted to substitute a ball of another brand or type unless the committee has adopted the One Ball Condition of Competition (see Appendix I; Part C; Section 1c).”
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Realising his mistake, Henley alerted PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel to the error.
“It was a small dash, a different way it was marked that would have been easy to overlook,” said the official. “He came to us and said he didn’t know how it had got in his bag."
It took Fabel and eight other officials an hour-and-a-half to come to a decision. Their conclusion was that Henley had broken the ‘One Ball Rule’ and that he was to be penalised two shots for each hole in which he had used the stray ball.
That added up to eight shots and turned Henley’s two-under-par round of 69 into a six-over 77, which dropped him from seven-under for the tournament to one-over. With the cut falling at one-under, he ended up missing out on the final two rounds.
Has to be said, kudos to Henley for his honesty.