EVANS, Ga. – Anna Davis’ title defense got off to a rough start Wednesday morning at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
On the opening hole of the 17-year-old’s opening round at Champions Retreat, the par-4 first on the Island nine, Davis committed two rules violations in which she lifted, cleaned and placed her ball in the rough, or second cut. The news was first reported by GolfChannel.com, which spoke to several witnesses.
Preferred lies are in effect for the first two rounds, but only in "areas cut to fairway height or less," according to a memo sent by the competitions committee. Players were informed on Tuesday night that Model Local Rule E-3, which allows for preferred lies, would be adopted.
The verbiage of the MLR includes, "The use of this local rule outside the fairway in the general area is not recommended."
After her round, Davis was officially handed a pair of two-shot penalties under Rule 9.4 for, per an official statement from the tournament headquarters, twice lifting her ball and failing to replace it in its original spot.
"Little rough start to the day," Davis said afterward after her even-par 72 turned into a 4-over 76, "but that's all right, it happens. It's a learning experience."
Full-field scores from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur
Davis said she did not see the official memo, but she did know the MLR was in place when she teed off on Wednesday. However, she added that she asked her walking scorer "if we were doing it like everywhere, but I guess he didn't know. But he said, 'Yeah, we were.' So whatever. It happens."
It's also worth noting that Davis has played junior events in the past where the MLR was implemented in the rough as well.
Davis bogeyed the first hole, but she was later notified by a tournament rules official on the fourth tee box that she would likely be subject to a pair of two-shot penalties, one for each violation, which would make her new score on the hole a quintuple-bogey 9.
She then proceeded to card a double bogey at the par-4 fourth.
"If you look at my score on the fourth, you'll kind of see how that affected me," Davis said. "I was a little taken aback. ... I was trying to like hit my shot on hole 4, but I'm also thinking about the four-shot penalty that I'm getting."
Because the penalties weren't handed down until after a post-round review, live scoring didn't update Davis' score while she was on the course. After a bogey at No. 5, Davis was 8 over through five holes, but she battled back to birdie Nos. 7 and 8, and she added two more at Nos. 13 and 15 while going bogey-free over her final 13 holes.
"I had no idea until 18," said one of Davis' playing competitors, Emilia Migliaccio. "I had no idea that happened at all. Honestly, I was just really impressed with how she started in general and then finished. ... It sucks. One of my college tournaments, I actually hit from the wrong tee this year. I hadn't made a mistake like that in a long time. There's nothing you can say about it except it sucks.
"I hope she goes low tomorrow, and it won't matter."
Davis' 76 puts her T-43, two shots back of the current cut line of 2 over. After Thursday's second round, the field will be cut to the top 30 and ties.
"I was talking to my caddie about this; I literally talked about mental game all week and how important it is, and now that's being tested," Davis said, while also adding, "I'm determined to have a good round tomorrow and play my best, and we'll go from there."