PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Things were well after Russell Henley shot what appeared to be a 2-under 69 in the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Aged 7 overall, he was on the front page of the leaderboard.
And then he wasn't. While rummaging through his bag for golf balls to sign and distribute after signing his card, Henley realized that he had inadvertently used a different type of Titleist Pro V1x during the round, in violation of PGA TOUR's unique ball rule.
Related: Among the best | Tringale and Seiffert make consecutive aces
"It was a little race, in a different way that was easy to ignore," said Brad Fabel, TOUR's rules officer. "He came to us and said he didn't know how he got in his bag."
The eight local Rules of Golf officials checked for about an hour and a half and even brought in the USGA to evaluate the matter.
"We researched a lot," said Fabel.
Henley said there was no doubt that he had used the ball. He gives his caddy the balls put into play to score accordingly, and the Pro V1x in question has been marked as such. This left two questions: where did this unique and differently marked ball come from (just to satisfy your curiosity) and how many holes did he use it for, how many penalty kicks did he take?
Where it came from, it would have to wait, but finally Henley decided he had used it in holes 9, 10, 11, and 12, costing two shots per hole. He had equaled all four holes, but now four double bogeymen turned his 69 into 77, leaving him off the cut line.
The confusion ends Henley's cuts at eight, including the last four starts of last season and the first four of this season. He accepted the news well.
"He was great," said Fabel. "I have a lot of respect for this gentleman."
Here is the USGA explanation:
"When exchanging the ball, the player may substitute a ball of another brand or type, unless the Committee has adopted the One Ball Competition Condition (see Appendix I; Part C; Section 1c). This optional condition (generally (the "one-ball rule") is generally adopted only in events limited to professional players or highly qualified amateurs. This competition condition is generally not adopted in club competitions. "