Another week, another 'first-ever' ruling on the PGA Tour generates discussion

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For the second time in six days, PGA Tour chief rules official Mark Russell uttered words that were eerily similar.

Yet, just as unique. 

“Very unusual situation,” Russell said. “In my 31 years on the golf tour, I can never
remember a player withdrawing right before he's supposed to play.”

It was the latest of head-scratchers in which the tour somewhat bent the rules or went somewhat off the reservation, coming on the heels of the Tiger Woods lost-ball controversy of the previous Friday in Charlotte, which Russell also characterized as the first of its kind in his tenure.

This time around, veteran D.A. Points hurt his back in the range before the first round of the Players Championship but thought he might still be able to play. So he walked to the first tee, his name was announced, and he then informed the starter that he was hurt.

At that point, nobody could locate the first alternate, Brian Harman, who was on the property somewhere. Carl Pettersson and Robert Garrigus teed off and expected Harman to catch up, but he never did.

“It got botched by everybody,” Garrigus said. “D.A. didn't do anything, the officials didn't do anything, and Brian was sitting in the caddie area. If I were D.A., when I tweaked my back on the driving range, I would have said, ‘Hey, where's the first alternate, get ahold of him, I'm going to be on the first tee trying to go, if not, he can go.’ 

“That's what I would have done. But D.A. thought he was going to tee off, and then he made a couple swings before, and he cringed up, curled up in a ball and said, ‘I'm done.’”

It happened so quickly that Russell and the tour staff elected to allow Harman to play anyway and actually inserted him into the pairings sheet just before the first threesome of the afternoon wave started. He played as a single.

Russell said they thought it was the right call because Harman was on the property as required, had given the tour his phone number and whereabouts, and then the rapidity of the Points’ WD caught everybody off-guard. Generally, if the alternate isn’t around, he gets gonged and the officials move down to the next name on the list.

“We just didn't have time to react to it,” Russell said. “Once we got our heads together and thought about it, I know we've done the right thing in handling this.”

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