Brian Gay incurred a one-stroke penalty on No. 17 at TPC River Highlands (his third hole on Saturday morning and 8th of his second round). While searching for his ball in the hazard he found it by accidentally stepping on it.
Gay and his caddie, Kip Henley, tried to appeal the ruling after the weather-delayed second round. Despite nearly
an hour-a thirty-minute-long discussion with VP of Rules and Competition Mark Russell, along with Stephen Cox, the rules official who was on-site, the decision held up.
Had it been overturned, Gay would have carded a 7 rather than an 8 on the hole to post a 36-hole total one-under instead of even par and changed the cut to one-under at the Travelers Championship.
However, since that wasn’t the case, it stuck at even par, giving 18 more guys who were tied for 70th the chance to advance to the third round (cut is top 70 and ties). 88 players made the 36-hole cut, the second-highest total of the season (90 made it at the Shell Houston Open). With more than 78 players making the cut, a 54-hole cut, otherwise known as “made cut, didn’t finish” (MDF), will be set following the third round, which will consist of the top 70 and ties. The guys who don’t play well enough will be credited with a made cut and last-place money.
Back to Gay and the ruling (and yes, it’s clearly a slow news day).
While he didn’t think he moved his ball, he couldn’t say for sure that he had *not* caused it to move. He couldn’t see it initially because it was embedded in the long grass and mud. Gay said he felt the ball on the bottom of his shoe when he stepped on it.
“Brian couldn’t say whether or not he moved it with 100% certainty,” Russell told a huddle of reporters in the media center. “If you start kicking your ball or accidentally (stepping on) your ball, you’ve got to take the worst of that. If the ball minutely moves, it went down, it’s a penalty. It’s not personal, it’s the rules of the game.”
Unfortunately, in this case, the officials can’t give the player the benefit of the doubt because it doesn’t apply here.
Russell added: “Well, if I say he didn’t move it, how are we going to rule it next time?”
Kip was disappointed with the ruling, saying he “fought hard.”
“They can all buy me a beer,” quipped Henley, referring to the 18 players who benefited from Gay’s misstep.
*Update: I caught up with Brian and Kip again after the third round to follow up. Brian said, “No way in heck the ball moved. It was fully embedded in the dirt. The rule is about the ball landing in the grass. My ball was embedded in the dirt in the hazard. The rule that (Russell) read me was the ball moving vertically in the grass.”
Kip said he wanted Russell to tell the media what he told him and Brian — that the evidence was weighed toward the ball not moving, but they were going to get penalized, anyway. Officials admitted the evidence weighed toward the ball not moving, but since they couldn’t be 100% sure, they were penalized.
One of those rules where there are some shades of gray…
(Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann)