Rules Guy, Masters edition: Revisiting Padraig Harrington’s costly wind gust

Padraig Harrington of Ireland and his caddie Ronin Flood wait on the second tee during the second round of the 2009 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2009 in Augusta, Georgia

Padraig Harrington took a penalty in 2009 for a rule that was later changed.

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While the closest thing we own to a green jacket is a chartreuse blazer with suede elbow patches, Rules Guy remains enamored of Augusta. Thus, on the 11th anniversary of the Masters’ second-most-famous rules imbroglio, involving the Tiger Woods drop heard round the world on the 15th hole — rest easy, De Vicenzo, you’ll never be dethroned — we’ve compiled three instances where the rules of the game trended very hard. Next up: Padraig Harrington’s costly wind gust on the 15th hole of the second round in 2009.

ICYMI: Jeff Maggert’s unfortunate self-deflection in 2003


Heading into the 2009 Masters, Harrington was the Irish Tiger, the reigning British Open and PGA champion.

His quest for a third straight major was rolling along fine following an opening 69 and 14 Friday holes played at level par.

Then, as he addressed a four-foot birdie putt on the 15th, a gust of wind moved the ball a foot closer to the hole. Paddy took the one-stroke penalty like a champ, replacing the ball to its original spot and making the putt for par.

He was “chuffed” with his fortitude, he said — and even more pleased in 2012, when the first step toward what’s now Rule 9.3 was implemented: removing the automatic penalty for a ball moving after address.

For more wind-related guidance from our guru, read on …

flag on green
Rules Guy: The wind blew the flagstick out of the hole — then my ball hit it and went in. What now?
By: Rules Guy

In a four-ball match on a windy day, I marked my ball on the green and cleaned it with my towel, which an opponent then asked to borrow. Sure, no problem — I’m up first. The ball has barely left my putter when the wind blows the towel on top of my ball, stopping it dead. Chuckles all around … and I end up three-putting for bogey and a halve. I argued, unsuccessfully, that my towel was our opponents’ towel when it impeded my shot, and that they should be penalized somehow. Everyone else said it was my towel, and so my fault. — Tom Noga, Huntingdon Valley, Penn.

You were wrong to throw in the towel so soon, Tom. Under Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b, the stroke was canceled, with the ball replaced and the stroke replayed, since it was made from the putting green and accidentally hit a movable obstruction.

If your playing partner and your opponents agreed that you should play on from the point of the towel incident, that agreement stands; otherwise, you should have proceeded in the way you thought was right, and your opponent would have had until a player teed off on the next hole to request a ruling.

Had this happened in stroke play, and you erred by not replaying the stroke, the general penalty of two strokes would be added to your score. Next time, don’t be so generous with your towel — and try to find a partner who won’t throw you under the bus!

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