This weird equipment glitch had golf’s hottest player worried about rules violation

November 25, 2019
Brendon Todd was worried about playing with a non-conforming club during Saturday's third round at the RSM Classic.

It’s hard to imagine getting frustrated about anything during a round of 62. (To be fair, it’s hard to imagine a round of 62, period.) But in the midst of an 8-under heater on Saturday afternoon at the RSM Classic, Brendon Todd missed an 11-footer for birdie and did something to his putter grip that had him worried about a rules violation.

“When I missed that putt on 14, I kind of ran my hands down the shaft in frustration,” said Todd, who was seeking his third consecutive PGA Tour victory. There’s this rubber end to the grip that I guess is rolled up and it can roll down, so I rolled it down on accident and I just wanted to make sure that wouldn’t be a nonconforming club if I rolled it back up or putted with it down.”

It was a worthy worry. You’ll recall bizarre incidents from the past where players have snapped putters out of anger and used their wedges on the greens the rest of the way, or bent clubs on trees and had to replace them. (Justin Thomas ran into this very incident earlier this year.)

Todd called in a rules official to confirm that the club was indeed in compliance.

But a new rule from the USGA this year has simplified all that, and taken the idea of replacing damaged clubs almost entirely out of play.

According to the USGA’s new rule, Under Rule 4.1:

  • A player is allowed to keep using and/or to repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger.
  • A player is not allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or natural forces, or by someone other than the player or his or her caddie.

That means if you bend your 7-iron around a tree in frustration — or even do something as minuscule as fiddle with your grip — you can keep that club in play the rest of the day. No harm, no foul.

Todd’s title quest fell just short, as he faded on Sunday with a two-over 72 that left him solo fourth. But you won’t hear the PGA Tour veteran complaining — he leads the FedEx Cup standings and has already banked well over $2 million this fall season. Plus, he’s fully compliant with the rules.