Woody Austin received a four-shot penalty during the second round of the PGA Championship for exceeding the 14-club limit. On the third hole, Austin realized he had fifteen clubs and declared the extra one out of play (well, we’re still unsure of its fate) and informed a rules official that he had violated the rule.
Under Rule 4-4, Maximum of Fourteen Clubs: “The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs.”
The penalty for the breach is two strokes for each hole where the breach occurred, with a maximum penalty of four strokes. Austin, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship last month, added two shots to his score for the first and second holes.
So, here’s what happened: With the wet conditions, Austin thought about switching out his 3-iron for his 21-degree driving iron for the extra distance, but after testing both out on the range, he decided to stick with the 3-iron because he was hitting it better.
“With the rain and everything, trying to worry about keep it all under control, we just didn’t pay attention and take it out,” Austin said, who ultimately signed for a five-over 75.
He discovered the driving iron on the third hole when he reached in his bag for his 3-iron and saw the the extra club, and he immediately knew it was a four-shot penalty, thanks to Ian Woosnam’s gaffe at the 2001 Open Championship.
“I can’t say I was angry. I was more in shock,” said Austin, who shot a two-day total of four-over. “Just disappointed that I was that stupid. After 20 years, I think you do one stupid thing of each and that’s my first time ever doing something like that. Now I just have to figure out how to get DQed and I’ll be all set.”
How did his caddie react?
“He just apologized, but it’s not his fault, it’s my fault,” said Austin. “It’s my fault as much as it his fault. It’s both of our jobs. It’s just one of those things, if it weren’t raining, we would have caught it, but with the rain cover and everything, you just don’t see it.”
From there, Austin was even par for the remaining 16 holes, which is incredibly impressive given the tough weather conditions. With the torrential showers, Oak Hill was playing extremely long, especially for Austin who already hits it considerably shorter than the average player in the field.
Asked if he used the unfortunate situation to motivate him, the 49-year-old veteran said: “It probably got me in the game a little quicker, but it’s also a hard golf course and it’s hard to make a lot of birdies for me because I got more longer clubs than these young guys have into these greens, so it was tough knowing I had to choose under par for the last 16 holes on this golf course.”
Austin, who was visibly bummed, was generous with his time after he signed his card, and handled himself with class, answering our questions graciously, which made me feel even worse with him.
I’m still not (recovered from the initial shock),” he said. “You keep on going, but I could be even par and in the tournament but I’m down the road. It’s real disappointing.”
Austin had a putt to save par on the 18th, but unfortunately he missed it, which may cost him a chance at a little bit of redemption over the weekend.
“For someone like me who is already not hitting it very far… I needed to make that putt on the last hole,” he said.
At the moment, he’s a stroke outside the cut line, but scores are expected to be lower this afternoon due to the soft and mild conditions — and more significantly, no torrential rain to deal with.
Austin won’t be making a dash for the airport, but he’s not liking his chances of playing two more rounds at the PGA Championship.
“I’d be stupid not to wait, but I know better, I know it won’t hang on,” he said.
Austin is known for his temper. His most infamous incident occurred in the 1997 Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, where he missed a putt and then bashed his putter against his head repeatedly until the club broke.