PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Austin Johnson went above and beyond the call of duty to save his brother, Dustin, from a penalty at The Players Championship – and he has the wet shoes to prove it.
Austin caddies for his older brother on Tour, and the two ran into an unusual rules situation on the fourth hole Friday at TPC Sawgrass.
Dustin’s approach had found the far left edge of the green, and after marking he gave his ball to Austin to clean it. During the subsequent exchange, the ball slipped out of Dustin’s hand and rolled into the lake that guards the green.
Under Rule 15-2, a player “must complete play of the hole with the ball with which he began the hole unless he is proceeding under a rule that permits him to substitute a ball.” After calling in a rules official, the brothers Johnson were informed that they would incur a two-shot penalty if they couldn’t retrieve the original ball from the water.
Without much hesitation, Austin jumped into the lake and quickly came up with the ball. Johnson avoided a penalty, made par and ultimately went on to card his second straight round of 2-under 70.
“I told him I would at least go look for it. I didn’t want to take the penalty,” Austin said. “We could see a couple balls, but we didn’t know which one it was. I kind of just put my hand down there and it was the first one I picked up, luckily.”
Johnson was already hobbled by a cast on his right hand resulting from a fractured thumb, and he opted to keep his shoes on for the quick dip. While it left him with some soggy socks for the final five holes of the round, it wasn’t a decision he regretted.
“I thought about it, but then I looked down there and it was all kinds of sharp shells and stuff,” he said. “I’d take wet feet over a cut foot anytime.”
It was an unusual scenario for a brotherly combo, but once it was clear that two shots were at stake, both player and caddie knew how it would be resolved.
“I didn’t know what the deal was, if you had to go get it,” Dustin added. “But it was going to be a penalty, so there was no doubt that he was going in.”