March 15, 2021

Rules of Golf - Why Hovland Wasn't DQ'd

Written by:  Darin Green, Senior Director of Rules & Competitions

Viktor Hovland walked out of the scoring tent on Thursday after the first round of the The Players Championship happy, after just posting a 2-under 70. While leaving the course, his mother in Norway called him and asked if he was going to be penalized for what happened on the 15th green. Hovland was confused, and then his mother explained that he moved his ball marker to the side as asked by Justin Thomas and he forgot to replace it. His mother sent him a video of infraction. Hovland then quickly notified Tour officials of the incident.

Hovland’s ball marker was in Justin Thomas’ line; Thomas asked Hovland to move it and he moved it one putter head to the side. When it was Hovland’s turn to play, he forgot to move the ball marker back to its original position, instead playing from this new spot. Hovland played from the wrong place which is a breach of Rule 14.7 which is loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play. Since Hovland did not gain a significant advantage by playing from the wrong place he did not need to correct the mistake. The Tour added the two-stroke penalty to Hovland’s score on the 15th hole, which turned his 70 into a 72.

A common question is “he signed and returned his scorecard for a score lower than he actually made; why is he not disqualified?”

A change to the Rules of Golf in 2019 allowed the Committee to simply add the penalty strokes to Hovland’s score rather than disqualifying him. The Exception to Rule 3.3b(3) is what saved Hovland. See below:

Exception – Failure to Include Unknown Penalty:  If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because he or she excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard:

  • The player is not disqualified.
  • Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition (trophy awarded), the Committee will revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rule.

The exception does not apply:

  • When the excluded penalty is disqualification, or
  • When the player was told that a penalty might apply or was uncertain whether a penalty applied and did not raise this with the Committee before returning the scorecard.

Tip – when you have to move your ball marker on the green, put your ball in a pocket that you never use. When you go to grab your ball, hopefully the ball being in a strange pocket will trigger your mind to replace your ball marker in the correct spot.
Enjoy watching the final round of The Players and the Honda this week!

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