‘It makes me sick’: Wild post-round ruling costs pro his PGA Tour card

Shad Tuten

Shad Tuten on Sunday on the 15th hole at Victoria National.

Golf Channel

One rules misstep. One video review. 

And Shad Tuten lost a PGA Tour card that was going to be his.  

“It makes me sick as a past player,” analyst James Nitties said on the Golf Channel broadcast. 

In a wild sequence on Sunday during the final round of the Korn Ferry Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship, Tuten was hit with a two-stroke penalty after his round at Victoria National Golf Club for a mistake he made on a golf-ball placement on his 15th hole. The ruling, following a video look, moved Tuten from 30th on the season-long points race to 32nd — and only the top 30 earned PGA Tour cards for next year. 

The ruling involved lift, clean and place, a local rule that was in effect for the round. On the par-5 15th, Tuten hit his second shot from thick, left rough to a spot about 100 yards short of the green. He marked his ball with a tee. He cleaned his ball. He placed it. It apparently moved. Here’s where the infraction started. 

Tuten moved his ball slightly to the right. That was wrong. He needed to try again. According to rule 14.2e, which covers what to do when a placed ball does not stay on its original spot, “the player must try a second time. If the ball again does not stay on that spot, the player must replace the ball by placing it on the nearest spot where the ball will stay at rest.”

But the mistake appeared to be unknown to Tuten, and he played on, birdieing that hole and finishing with a two-over 74 and the all-important 30th spot. Shortly after, though, the video review was conducted, the ruling was made — and his 74 became a 76, and his season-long finish went from 30th to 32nd. 

On Golf Channel, on-course reporter Gary Christian received this explanation from rules official Jim Duncan: 

“Well, there was a video of him trying to place his ball under the lift-clean-and-place local rule, and I think it’s pretty clear in the video that when he placed it one time that the ball rolled forward a little bit. Unfortunately, that rule requires you to try to replace it on the exact same spot again, and then if it won’t at rest, that’s when you find the nearest place that you do, just like any other rule that requires placing. So when he did not try and place that ball right back on the same spot, that’s when he was under penalty, two shots, for playing from the wrong place.”

There are some questions here. 

Aren’t most Korn Ferry Tour events untelevised? Yes. Would this potentially have gone unnoticed most weeks? Yes. It appeared that Tuten believed he was acting according to the rules. 

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But wasn’t there a rule change limiting video rules? Yes. There are two exceptions. According to a USGA release, the first standard states: “The use of video technology can make it possible to identify things that could not be seen with the naked eye,” while the second states: “The second standard applies when a player determines a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location in applying the Rules, and recognizes that a player should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology.” In Tuten’s case, the infraction came on a procedural move. 

Were there other strokes that cost Tuten his card? Yes, of course. 

But this was no doubt painful. After his round, he was not knowingly interviewed, and as of early Sunday night, he had not posted on his social channels. 

“Can’t believe that,” Nitties said on the Golf Channel broadcast. This is just heartbreaking stuff. Just the reaction, probably didn’t even know he was doing it. 

“That is so unfortunate.” 

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.