The twofold ruling that nearly got Martin Laird disqualified and wound up costing Bryant was over a pitch mark on the par-3 16th late in the second round Saturday morning at the BMW Championship.
Lairds tee shot on the par 3 landed on the fringe and rolled to 3 feet. Bryants shot came up just short in the rough, some 50 feet from the flag.
As they approached the green, Laird noticed the pitch mark left by his tee shot and went to tamp it down.
I said, Is this in your line? Laird said after a long and troublesome day.
As the rookie from Scotland punched down the grass with his club, Bryant told him that indeed, it was in his line between the ball and the flag. It did not affect the shot because Bryants play was to chip well over the mark.
Slugger White, the PGA TOUR's vice president of rules and competition, said a decision related to Rule 1-2 does not allow Laird to improve a competitors line. That ordinarily would be a two-shot penalty ' disqualification in this case, because Laird already had signed his card ' but he was not penalized because the USGA deemed that he did not intend to help Bryant.
Bryant did not get off so easily.
He was guilty of Rule 13-2, which covers improve the lie, area of intended swing or stance or line of play. The rules says a player cannot improve the line or allow it to be improved.
By agreeing that the mark was in his line ' a simple Yes was all it took ' Bryant was assessed two shots. That turned a bogey into a triple bogey, turning a 66 into a 68.
I cant believe he got a two-shot penalty, Laird said.
White said he asked Bryant if there was any way to stop Laird from tamping down the pitch mark. Laird said he asked Bryant as he was in the process of fixing the mark with his putter.
Bart said to me, I cant look you in the eye and say in good conscience that I could have, White said. His integrity is amazing. Hes a classy guy.
As unfair as it sounds, Bryant made no excuses. Asked if he should have been penalized, he replied, Yes, because I broke the rules.
I didnt knowingly break the rule, he said with a gentle smile. I didnt even know that rule.
White conferred with the USGA as Laird stopped for lunch between the second and third round, and Laird teed off in the third round not knowing if he would be disqualified. He got word on the fourth hole that he was OK, but he started the third round with three bogeys and a double bogey over his first six holes.
Laird needs to finish the tournament to secure his PGA TOUR card for next year. He wound up with a 76 and was tied for 65th among 68 players.
Bryant earned a small measure of redemption. Four holes into the next round, he made a hole-in-one.
Thats good karma, Laird said. I told him, You got the two strokes back.