Count Carl Pettersson among the majority of golfers, professional and casual, who would like to rewrite the Rules of Golf -- or at least one in particular. Co-leader of the PGA Championship midway through, Pettersson incurred a two-stroke penalty on the first hole of the final round on the Ocean Course when he inadvertently displaced a leaf on his backswing while hitting from a hazard.
“We have a lot of stupid rules in golf,” Pettersson, who had no idea his swing had any impact on a leaf, told reporters after signing for a final-round 2-over 72.
Pettersson even conferred with an official before taking his swing to clarify whether he was allowed to touch grass on his take-away (yes, if he did not ground his lob wedge on the way back). The stroke, which brushed the grass, also disturbed a leaf, causing the golfer to breach Rule 13-4c, which prohibits moving a loose impediment in a lateral hazard, and earning himself a double-bogey instead of a par. After confirming the violation on replay, officials informed Pettersson of the issue on the fourth hole.
While the penalty had no impact on Rory McIlroy’s runaway win, it was an expensive error for Pettersson, who finished tied for third with Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose instead of a solo second-place. No surprise that the Swede was no fan of the USGA edict that cost him almost half a million dollars (he pocketed $384,500 for a T3 instead of a runner-up’s share of $865,000).
“Sucks for me, I would have finished second on my own,” Pettersson said succinctly.
To CBS golf analyst David Feherty, slapping Pettersson with the infraction was ludicrous since the reg clearly targeted amateurs who might drag their clubs back to “make a channel for themselves [to facilitate hitting the ball out of a hazard]," Feherty said, according to 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?"
Then there was Lee Westwood, who had no chance to sustain any penalties over the weekend since he was long gone by the time Sunday’s finale kicked off. The former No. 1 still has no major on his resume and apparently blamed his support team for his missed cut last week, because he subsequently fired swing coach Pete Cowen and caddie Mike Waite.
“Lee admits he needed to shake things up because he’d lost his focus and his enthusiasm a bit, because he wasn’t getting the rewards for his long game,” Westwood’s manager Chubby Chandler told The Telegraph.
Westwood bombed out of the PGA with an 8-over total for two days of effort and showed Cowen the door because his long-time instructor was MIA, according to Chandler.
“Lee is very structured about going to the gym, but not about practicing, so when Graeme [McDowell] and Pete’s other players are booking him, Lee is leaving it late and is having to work around them,” Chandler explained to The Telegraph. “Pete was here for two days with Graeme this week when Lee wanted to work with him, so it just wasn’t working out. Lee’s the sort who needs someone standing over him, making him hit chip after chip and telling him what he’s doing wrong.
“It’s not like he’s got the yips or anything,” Chandler said, “he just needs to improve his technique.”
Or perhaps his self-discipline?
In any case, Westwood will be holding tryouts for his next tutor -- a short-game teacher to help him on and around the greens -- starting with an upcoming five-day test. But don’t look for Dave Stockton, McIlroy’s putting guru, to enlist with the 39-time career winner.
“This man is not one of the usual suspects,” Chandler said. “It’s someone a bit different.”
Westwood also canned Waite, who had been subbing for regular looper Billy Foster, who’s out with a bad knee. The Englishman will have Alvaro Quiros’s bagman Mike Kerr by his side starting with next week’s Barclays Championship and through the Ryder Cup in September. Quiros, the Telegraph noted, is on hiatus.
Speaking of the new two-time major winner, McIlroy gave props to Stockton for aiding him with his flat stick.
“We had a chat last week in Akron [at the Bridgestone Invitational] and he just said to me, ‘You know, just go out and play with a smile on your face. Enjoy it. This is what you've always wanted to do since you were a little boy. There's no point in getting frustrated out there or getting upset. Just go out and enjoy it,’” McIlroy said after drilling a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to put an exclamation on his PGA romp. “That's the attitude that I had for the last couple weeks, and it definitely helped.”
About that red shirt that McIlroy cheekily donned for Sunday’s final round: The golfer Padraig Harrington believes will break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles was well aware that observers would make the inevitable comparisons between himself and a certain 14-time major champion -- especially after he took the course wearing Tiger Woods’s signature Sunday red shirt.
“I thought if I was playing with [Woods] I wouldn't wear it. I remember what happened to Luke Donald in 2006 at Medinah,” McIlroy said, referring to Woods’s rout of a red-shirted Donald in the final round of the PGA Championship. “I wasn't playing with him and thought I would wear it; no wonder he wins so much.”