PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — New rules have caused all kinds of consternation in golf this year, but it was an old rule that cost Harold Varner two strokes on Thursday during the opening round of the Players Championship.
Varner began his round on the 10th hole with less than the maximum of 14 clubs because he had an issue with his driver on the driving range and did not want to play with it.
According to PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell, Varner could have had the club repaired and brought to him on the course.
But he wanted to keep the same driver head, and one of his representatives was to bring him a new shaft. And that’s where he ran into trouble.
“He couldn’t’ take that shaft with him on the golf course,” Russell said. “Cannot be assembled on the golf course. So he left it on the tee and the walking scorer picked it up and took it on the golf course and Harold and his caddie were aware of this.
“So when they brought the head out and assembled it out there, it broke Rule 4. Can’t do that. They don’t want clubs assembled on the golf course.”
The exact rule was Rule 4.1b(4) and it came to light on the 11th hole — Varner’s second — where a par-5 turned into a 7. He shot 74 for the round.
It could have been worse. Varner was penalized because he played a shot with the club in his bag. Had the error been discovered before hitting a shot, there would have been no penalty.
But had he played a shot with the repaired club, he would have been disqualified.