Bill Murray and his pro partner D.A. Points did not play their best golf at this year’s AT&T National Pro-Am. Still, as is often the case at the annual tournament rife with celebrity golfers, Murray stole the show anyway with something you never see on the course: a no-look, walk-off rules violation.
The bizarre moment was captured by a fan watching the action this weekend at Pebble, and it’s been burning its way through the internet since, even making waves beyond the golf community.
In the clip, Murray is seen hitting a 15-foot right-to-left bender on what it appears to be the par-3 7th hole at Pebble Beach, with the Pacific Ocean looming behind him. He played far too much break in the putt, missing badly on the high side, but it’s what he did next that everyone’s talking about.
As his ball harmlessly ran passed the hole, Murray walked after it and then, with his back to the ball and the hole, knocked the still moving ball backward and directly into the hole. The crowd erupted into applause as the legendary comedian remained straight-faced and continued to walk off the green toward the 8th tee.
Here’s the full clip:
Murray’s nifty move was no doubt impressive but also a clear rules violation, though what the punishment should have been is less clear. The fact that Murray made a stroke and the ball ended up in the hole complicates the ruling.
According to Rule 11.2.c.(2), when a ball in motion is deflected or stopped by the player on the putting green, “the stroke does not count, and the original ball or another ball must be replaced on its original spot” with a two-stroke penalty added to the player’s score.
Since Murray knocked the ball into the hole and then moved onto the next — and did not re-take the putt from its original location as the rules require — it’s unclear what the correct punishment would have been: either a two-stroke penalty or a disqualification. Fortunately, Murray is a celebrity amateur and his group wasn’t in contention (though he and Points teamed to win the Pebble Pro-Am title in 2011), so getting the ruling exactly right didn’t matter, and everyone simply laughed and moved on.
It was reminiscent, however, of a moment that did matter, involving one of the best players in the game at one of the most important tournaments of the year.
At the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, Phil Mickelson pulled a Murray-esque move and stopped a putt that was about to roll off the green. Mickelson was widely criticized for the move, and the act easily could have ended in a disqualification, but the USGA controversially decided to charge him with a two-stroke penalty instead.
Whatever the correct ruling may be, the real takeaway from both of these incidents is this: unless you’re a beloved comedian playing in an exhibition event, don’t hit your golf ball until it completely comes to rest.
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