Well, it’s certainly been a strange, hectic morning at The Players Championship, and it actually didn’t directly have anything to do with Tiger Woods. Shocking, I know. In the end, it worked itself out.
Brian Harman, the first alternate, was granted a spot in the field and a 12:20pm tee time, after a sequence of strange events, where he should have replaced D.A. Points, who withdrew, in the 8:39am starting time on No. 1.
Harman, the little lefty rookie who played his college golf at University of Georgia, was ready to go this morning at TPC Sawgrass in the case that a player withdrew. Points, who was scheduled to tee off with Carl Pettersson and Robert Garrigus, pulled out at the last second. Literally. One of the players — not Points — already teed off when Points decided to he was unable to play. Garrigus and Pettersson continued on. By the time word got back to officials to inform Harman, it was too late.
When Harman and his caddie John Davenport arrived at TPC Sawgrass at 7am, they informed Tour personnel that they would be waiting in the caddie area in the basement of the clubhouse (which might not have been ideal, but Harman is a rookie). Davenport also went to the first tee to notify officials that Harman was on-site and ready to go in the case of a withdrawal.
Twenty-five minutes before his starting time, Points was warming up on the driving range this morning when he suddenly felt back spasms and headed for the fitness trailer, according to a Golf Channel report. From there, he went to the first tee and took some practice swings before deciding he was too hurt to play.
Harman had seen Points at the range earlier and said he looked fine — obviously, you can appear that way but be in pain, or back spasms can creep up at any moment.
It’s unclear what happened from the time Points withdrew and why officials were unable to notify Harman in time, or why Points didn’t give anyone a heads-up instead of waiting until the very last second or as Harman said tactfully, “There wasn’t a lot of notice…”
Because Points arrived at the tee at the last minute, he didn’t have time to give an official a heads-up. Which begs the question why isn’t there an official on the tee as a precaution in dealing with such situations, regardless. That official also could have stopped Garrigus and Pettersson and asked them to wait.
Officials knew Harman was in the caddie area, where he had told them, but when they went to get him, it was too late.
Harman flagged down Golf Channel contributor Tim Rosaforte, who was passing by in a golf cart, to give him the scoop. Harman called it a “$1.8 million mistake,” Rosaforte wrote in a tweet.
“It’s The Players Championship, you have to give it a go,” Harman said. “I’d have to be in a wheelchair not to give it a go here.”
Technically, according to Rule 6-1, Harman missed an available tee time and could have been disqualified, but Tour officials realized the exigent circumstances and called the USGA to discuss the unique incident.
From what I’ve gathered, it was a perfect storm. I’ve been going back and forth with players, officials, tweeps and your cousin’s sister on who was at fault in this unfortunate incident for the last 3-4 hours. My initial reaction was that it was the Tour’s fault for somehow not notifying Harman, but then I found out Points had withdrawn not just on the first tee, but after one of the guys in his scheduled group had teed off. He had ample time to at least give an official a head’s up on his current condition. As LPGA player Paige Mackenzie said on Twitter, it’s common courtesy.
However, it’s also the first alternate’s responsibility to be ready on the tee if a player pulls out. I argued with current Nationwide Tour player (disclosure alert: also a good pal) Chris Wilson over this issue for the last few hours. My point was, where was Harman supposed to be? There are double tees, and Nos. 1 and 10 are nowhere near each other. No. 1 is on one side of the clubhouse — we’ve all seen how big the new clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass is — and No. 10 is on the other side and then some. He notified all the appropriate people to inform them of his whereabouts.
OK, the caddie area in the basement of the clubhouse isn’t the *ideal* place to wait, but to my understanding, the first alternate is only required to be on-site before the tee time in case of a WD. Besides, he’s a rookie! — give him one pass.
The only way to explain this bizarre occurrence, which is the second major rules-related controversy in two weeks, is that it was a confluence of crap. In other words, like I said above, the perfect storm.
But, the Tour ended up making the right decision and creating a tee time for Harman at 12:20pm, just five minutes before the morning wave. He’ll play with a marker. Despite his hectic morning, Harman striped his drive down the first fairway.
Statement From PGA Tour Rules Committee:
This morning, D.A. Points withdrew from his 8:39 am starting time at the latest possible moment, after the first player in the group had played and Points’ name had been called on the tee. Points was experiencing back problems and made the last-second decision that he could not play.
With the unique timing of the situation, the Rules Committee became aware of the complete facts of the situation 6-7 minutes after the group had teed off and the following group was already preparing to play on the tee. After reviewing the facts of the case and the PGA TOUR’s standard protocols for withdrawls and substitutions, the Rules Committee has assigned 1st alternate Brian Harman a 12:20 pm starting time of No. 1 today to replace Points in THE PLAYERS Championship. Greg Owen will become the first alternate.
Although we are not aware of this specific situation occurring previously on TOUR, the decision to assign Harman a new starting time is consistent with the PGA TOUR’s standard procedures for substitutions and withdrawls. Alternates are asked to be on-site, inform the Committee of where they will be, and keep their mobile phone on so they can be contacted. Once a withdrawl occurs, the Rules Committee assess the timing of the situation and determines whether it is reasonable for the player to make it to the tee for the original time, or if a new starting time should be assigned. For example, at Pebble Beach, if there is a last minute withdrawal at Monterrey Peninsula Country Club, the Rules Committee assigns the first alternate a new starting time which allows him to have enough time to travel to course.
Vice president of rules and competition Mark Russell has had an interesting couple of weeks.
Very unusual situation. In my 31 years on the golf tour, I can never remember a player withdrawing right before he’s supposed to play. It happened very quickly. We didn’t have time to react, but once we were able to sit down and get our heads around this, figure out exactly what the situation is, we decided that Brian Harman had done everything that we had asked him to do, and at the time, he didn’t have a tee time.
So we re‑assigned him a tee time this afternoon. He’s going to play as a single. Then he’ll play in the morning off the 10th tee as a single.
We didn’t have time to put him with his group, because they had already teed off and gone on to the second hole. Very unique situation. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it really.
Who’s to blame? Well, there wasn’t enough time to react since D.A. told the starter he couldn’t play when his name was called, so basically, it’s D.A.’s.
I don’t want to throw D.A. under the bus,” said Russell. “It might have been a situation where he thought, well, this has happened before; I played a couple of holes and it felt better. I know he wants to play in THE PLAYERS Championship, but he got up there, and they announced the first player and he played and they announced D.A. and he says, “I can’t play.” And then the starter went ahead and announced the third player. We just didn’t have time to react at this time.
“There’s a lot going on on the golf course at this time. I’m on the golf course setting up. We just didn’t have time to react to it. And once we got our heads together and thought about it, I know we’ve done the right thing in handling this. It’s basic protocol. It would be like a situation where at Pebble Beach withdraws at the last second, we send them over to Monterrey or Spyglass or wherever and assign a new time and maybe let some groups go ahead of them. It’s definitely a protocol situation.”
Wait, I think Russell just threw D.A. under the bus…?
In related news, Russell certainly dealt with a few unusual rulings in less than a week! Just when you thought you’d seen and heard everything…even if they’re two very distinct situations, this happens.
Jeff Shain tweeted:
“Just spoke w/ D.A. Points. Says back spasmed 25min before tee time, went to physio trailer and didn’t take test swing until arriving at tee.”
“More D.A. Points: In rush to get to tee, had no time to find official to give heads-up about his back. Arrived 45 secs before name called.”
(Photo via Golfweek)