Pro breaks driver after a shot. But he wasn’t hitting with it (!)
A shot from up against a shrub. A wild ricochet off the shrub. A call to a rules official for not one but two possible rules infractions. A broken driver, though it wasn’t being used. And one shell-shocked player.
“I’ve never broke a driver ever or a wood or anything like that so just looking over and seeing the head of it just kind of dangling off, I just kind of, I was looking at the ball, I was looking at the club and then looked at my caddie, and we were all just in shock, and we just had to call a rules official right away,” Albin Choi said.
In one of the wilder sequences you’ll hear about, Choi eventually escaped the par-5 6th at Lakewood National with a par five during Saturday’s third round of the Korn Ferry Tour’s LECOM Suncoast Classic. But the route was anything but conventional. It started with a drive left, where Choi said his ball settled against a shrub.
From there, hold on.
“Yeah, so I was left on 6,” Choi explained, “and I was kind of against a shrub and couldn’t really get a club on it — it was kind of a weird shot, and I hit it and then unfortunately it hit the shrub right in front of me, and it bounced backwards and was actually going toward my caddie. He tried to move the bag, it hit the bag, but he dropped it because it all happened so fast and he dropped it.
“And the driver was kind of sticking out, and it just snapped right in half and so yeah.”
Indeed. What was Choi’s reaction?
“Well, I was coming off a bad bogey so it wasn’t the best timing, I would say,” he said. “And obviously being up against the shrub was kind of a little bit of a bad break as well, so I was trying my best to kind of stay in the moment and do the best that I can and then obviously the ball hitting the bag, the club breaking and then we’re just standing there kind of not knowing what just happened and — but made a great par, one of the best pars I’ve made, and then I birdied the next and then kind of just got back on track from there.”
Let’s break down the rules that came into play. The accidental deflection off his caddie is covered by Rule 11.1a, which was updated in 2019 and now states: “If a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person or outside influence: There is no penalty to any player. This is true even if the ball hits the player, the opponent or any other player or any of their caddies or equipment.”
As for the driver, Choi was allowed to repair the shaft under Model Local Rule G-9, which states: “If a player’s club is “broken or significantly damaged” during the round by the player or caddie, except in cases of abuse, the player may replace the club with any club under Rule 4.1b(4).” The essential word was “abuse.” It wasn’t, and a Korn Ferry Tour rules official found a replacement shaft in the clubhouse, assembled the club on the 7th green, and Choi hit it on the 8th tee.
“Yeah, I think it’s one thing if you get angry or get frustrated and you break it yourself,” Choi said of the rules scenarios, “but this was just kind of a freak accident and everyone in the group saw what happened and luckily the rule changed for the ball hitting the bag because that could have been real bad, too.
“That could have just, you know, the driver breaking plus penalty strokes — I don’t even really want to think about that really. But I would say, all in all, it kind of worked out the best it could have in the situation. And I’m happy with the way I handled it the rest of the day, and we got to make some birdies coming in.”
And how did the new driver play?
“Yeah, I was getting ready to hit a 3-wood off 8, and I was just trying to think in my mind, I didn’t bring an extra driver, and to try and play this golf course without a driver would be very difficult so I’m just glad I got something and it worked out half-decent,” Choi said.