Hunter Mahan’s caddie shoulders blame for wrong-ball error

David Cannon

Mahan will likely miss the cut at Pinehurst by one shot, and he’ll look back at a colossal brain cramp during Friday’s second round as the reason why.

If Hunter Mahan misses the cut at this week’s U.S. Open -- and late Friday he was one shot south of the 5-over magic number for a weekend tee time -- he has only himself to blame. But that doesn’t mean his caddie, John Wood, will sleep any better after his boss and Jamie Donaldson each incurred two-shot penalties after hitting each other’s golf balls during the second round at Pinehurst.

"You can’t imagine yourself doing something colossally as stupid as that, but I did it," Wood told reporters after Mahan shot a 2-over 72 that included a double-bogey six on the par-4 18th hole, thanks to the mistake on the fairway. "I won’t forgive myself very soon after this."

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Wood tried to explain the head-scratcher that had Mahan and Donaldson, who had pretty much played himself out of the tournament with a triple-bogey six on the previous hole, swinging at the wrong balls.

It seems that after both golfers hit off the tee, their ninth hole of the day, Wood was first on the scene and scoped out the situation. Believing that Mahan's ball had settled toward the middle of the fairway, he found it and provided his man the yardage to the pin.

Mahan, without checking to be sure it was his ball, hit his approach, after which Donaldson and Francesco Molinari, who rounded out the threesome, did the same. Here’s where it gets weird for Mahan and Donaldson, both of whom use Titleist, as do most PGA Tour players: They both put slashes across the numbers, which Wood said "is not a very common marking."

Once they realized what had happened, both players returned to the fairway to re-hit what turned out to be their fourth shots, and both carded doubles for the hole. The only silver lining is that Mahan and Donaldson corrected the mistake before teeing off on the next hole, which would have resulted in both being disqualified.

To Mahan, the situation was just "one of those fluke things," he said.

"Not much to describe; I just hit the wrong ball," he said. "It was one of those things I couldn't explain to you. Off the tee, it looked like that's where my ball should have been, and I couldn't explain to you how it ended up where it did. Just got to pay more attention."

Mahan went on to birdie the next hole, but it was too little, too late, and Wood will have to live with that.

"That's the worst of it. It's probably going to cost us the cut," Wood said. "And he played so good today. The two-shot penalty probably cost him three, because he had a really great look on the shot he hit in there for birdie. It's just one of those things you scratch your head at."

While all golfers are culpable for their actions, Wood, who apologized profusely to both golfers during the rest of the round, refused to let himself off the hook.

"It was a hundred percent on me. I was the first to the ball," said the 17-year veteran, who struggled to grasp what went down. "My mistake completely."

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