Golf nearly had another awkward rules violation to begin the year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. This time, however, there was a happier ending.
Camilo Villegas was disqualified following the opening round at Kapalua last year when he chipped up a slope toward the green at the par-5 15th hole and twice the ball rolled back down the hill. The second time, he removed a loose piece of grass by a divot as the ball was still moving. It was a violation of Rule 23-1 and he was disqualified.
This time Nick Watney was the man in question. Actually, it was Watney's caddie Chad Reynolds. Watney was lining up a putt on the seventh hole and Reynolds was bent down behind his boss. The caddie moved his hand back and forth in a swiping motion several times as if he were checking the grain on the green. The first several times it was obvious that his hand was not touching the surface. But then Reynolds' hand moved closer to the green and it was difficult to tell if his hand was touching, which would've been a violation of Rule 16-1d, testing the surface.
After the round was over, Watney, Reynolds and PGA Tour rules official Slugger White went to view video of the situation and Reynolds insisted he did not touch the green.
'I honestly don't think he touched the grass,' Watney told Curt Byrum on Golf Channel's telecast. 'He's caddied for 12, 13, 14 years, he won the FedEx Cup, he knows not to do that. If he says he didn't, he's my man and I'm going with it.'
Said Reynolds: 'There was no intention, there was no wrongdoing so we just go on from here.'
Watney shot even-par 73 and is tied for 14th place.