- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Duffy Waldorf never gave it second thought.

As he began to address his second shot on the 12th fairway at TPC at Avenel yesterday, Waldorf was distracted by a noisy golf cart off in the distance. He backed away for a moment, tapped a patch of grass with his club as he regrouped and went back to hit his approach shot.

Waldorf never thought he violated the rules of golf, and he certainly never imagined his innocent little act of groundskeeping would cost him two strokes, $150,000 and sole possession of second place at the Capital Open.

“Kind of like when a batter goes to bat,” Waldorf said in describing his actions. “He steps out, taps his shoes or kind of resets. I kind of tapped the ground just to have something to do, just to reset. I didn’t do it with intent.”

Intent or not, Waldorf was in violation of the rules of golf, specifically Rule 13.2, which states that “a player shall not improve … his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by … creating or eliminating irregularities of surface.”

Waldorf was later assessed a two-stroke penalty, a decision that dropped the 40-year-old PGA Tour veteran from sole possession of second place into a three-way tie with Fred Funk and Joe Durant at 10-under 274 — and dropped his prize money from $486,000 to $336,000.

The penalty was assessed because, in the minds of five members of the tour rules committee, Waldorf improved his line of play by cleaning up a “pitch mark” about three feet to his front and right. Although the divot was not directly in line with Waldorf’s shot, it was close enough to fall within the “reasonable extension” criteria established by the rules of golf.

“It is a gray area,” on-site tournament director Mark Russell said. “But the committee determined that it was in that reasonable distance.”

Waldorf disagreed, saying that if he hit the ball directly over the spot in question, “I would have hit it 50 yards right of the green.”

Adding more intrigue to the situation was the manner in which the violation was discovered. A viewer watching the tournament on television spotted Waldorf’s infraction and called the USGA, which then got in touch with on-site tournament official Steve Rintoul, who informed Russell. After consulting with four other rules officials, Russell told Waldorf — then on the 16th fairway and trailing eventual winner Rory Sabbatini by two strokes — that there was a potential problem.

“At that time, I’m thinking, ‘I don’t remember doing anything wrong,’” Waldorf said. “Now I’m thinking, ‘Am I two shots down or four shots down?’”

The final ruling wasn’t made until the round was completed, after Waldorf bogeyed two of his last three holes and after he was given an opportunity to make his case to the rules committee.

“I was in the position to talk them out of it,” Waldorf said. “I just didn’t do a very good job of it. We reviewed it, and I said, ‘It isn’t really close to my intended line of play.’ They didn’t agree with me.

“We don’t have a rules lawyer out here who can defend you at the end of your round. Maybe I need one.”

Russell said he hated to enforce the two-stroke penalty — which turned Waldorf’s birdie on the par-4 12th hole into a bogey — but said he had no choice.

“We looked at every way we could to get Duffy out of this,” Russell said. “But looking at the [television replay], he physically stepped up and eliminated the irregularity in front of his ball. We just didn’t see any way we could get him out of it.”

The unusual penalty put a damper on what was otherwise a fine week for Waldorf, who would have shot a 4-under 67, including an eagle at the par-5 13th, if not for the mishap.

“I’m a little disappointed,” he said. “I had such a good final round, and I haven’t played a good final round like that in a long time. I felt like I earned second place. I felt like I gave Rory a good run for his money and had a chance to win.”

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