KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – In the end it likely made little difference, not with Rory McIlroy posting a 13-under walk-off on what was billed as America’s toughest golf course; but that was little solace to Carl Pettersson, who was assessed a two-stroke penalty for moving a leaf during his swing while hitting from a hazard on the first hole Sunday at the PGA Championship.
“We have a lot of stupid rules in golf,” said Pettersson, who learned of the infraction after teeing off on the fourth hole.
Pettersson’s tee shot at the first hole drifted right of the fairway and just into a hazard. As he played his approach to the green he brushed a leaf – a breach of Rule 13-4c, moving a loose impediment in a hazard – turning his par at the first into a double bogey-6.
“I just didn't think about the leaves,” he added. “I didn't think twice about it when I hit the shot. The rules official came to me, and it’s just one of those bad rules in golf. Because I didn't rest the club down. If you're in a hazard, you can actually touch the grass. You just can't put any weight on it.'
Pettersson rallied with three birdies on his next four holes to finish tied for third at 4 under, nine strokes behind McIlroy, but that did little to ease the sting.
“Sucks for me, I would have finished second on my own,” he said.
Golf Channel’s David Feherty, who was the walking analyst with the group on Sunday, was more pointed in his assessment of the rule.
“Why don’t professional golfers make rules for professional golfers?” Feherty asked. “We’re the only sport that allows amateurs (to make rules). It’s not working for me if a guy is trying to make a living. A major championship may have hung in the balance.
“That (rule) is designed so an amateur doesn’t drag his club back and make a channel for themselves. What do you think would happen if a pro did that out there? I think we can account for that. How are you supposed to make a backswing? Use the club like a spear?”
It was dark irony that PGA official David Price informed Pettersson of the infraction, the same official who told Dustin Johnson he’d grounded his club in a hazard on the 72nd hole at the 2010 PGA Championship.