ORLANDO, Fla. – Brian Gay turned pro in 1994, played every circuit known to man and has been chasing a golf ball since he was 11 years old, but Thursday’s rules entanglement was a first.
Gay’s tee shot at the par-4 fifth hole during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational landed in a bunker down the left side of the fairway, while Dustin Johnson, playing in the same group as Gay, drove just short of the bunker. The divot from Johnson’s approach shot landed in front of Gay’s ball in the bunker and Gay’s caddied removed it before his man played his second shot.
More than three hours later as Gay settled into a seat in the scorer’s trailer Stephen Ames, who was also paired in the group, announced, “Don’t sign that,” as he handed Gay his official scorecard.
Ames didn’t know whether Gay’s caddie had violated a rule by removing the divot from the bunker and neither did any Tour officials. Two phone calls were placed to Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competition, before Gay was absolved of any wrongdoing.
“(The rules) didn’t say I should have a penalty but it wasn’t 100 percent clear,” said Gay, who signed for a par on the fifth and posted an opening-round 74. “What we figured out was I was entitled to the lie I had when I hit in the bunker.”
Lessoned learned, for everybody.