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Notable disqualifications down the years

With third-round leader Padraig Harrington being disqualified -- for failing to sign his first-round scorecard -- prior to the final round of the European Tour's Benson & Hedges International Open, it brings up the subject of others who have been the position of leading a tournament and being disqualified.

As long as golf has been played, players have been disqualified from tournaments for Rules infractions. It's hard to pinpoint the first time this ultimate penalty was used, but many feel the first occasion was in the 1876 British Open at St. Andrews. Bob Martin and Davie Strath were tied for the lead at the end of regulation play, and thus a playoff would be needed to settle the matter. However, during the course of regulation play, Strath was accused of a Rules infraction when he drove into a group in front of him, a breach of the Rule providing that no one shall play to a green with players on it. After nothing was resolved, it was announced that the playoff would be played under protest. Strath refused to compete in the playoff because no decision had been made on his alleged infringement of the Rule, thus disqualifying himself from winning the championship.

Since then, hundreds of golfers have been disqualified. What follows is a brief summary of the most famous ones, situations that either cost players titles, a chance at a title, money or some year-end reward.

1940 U.S. Open

Ed (Porky) Oliver shot a 71 in the fourth round for a 287 total to apparently get into a playoff with Lawson Little and Gene Sarazen. But he was disqualified, along with five others, for starting his final round ahead of schedule. With a storm brewing, the six players dashed to the first tee. Former USGA administrator Joe Dey was the starter, but he was having lunch at the time. A marshal told the players not to start before their scheduled tee time, but they didn't listen and teed off. After the round the USGA disqualified E.J. Harrison, Leland Gibson, Johnny Bulla, Ky Lafoon, Claude Harmon, and Oliver. In the locker room, when told the bad news, Oliver broke into tears. Both Little and Sarazen insisted that Oliver be included in the playoff, but the USGA stood by its decision to disqualify the golfers.

1957 U.S. Women's Open

When Jackie Pung walked off the 18th green at Winged Foot with a 72-hole score of 298, it looked like she was the winner. It was later discovered that the scorecard that she signed had a 5 for the fourth hole instead of the 6 that she made. Even though the 18-hole total on the card was correct, Pung had signed a wrong card so tournament officials had no choice but to disqualify her. The first-place check that Pung didn't receive was for $1,800. Winged Foot club members raised $3,000 to help console her for the loss, but it couldn't change the fact her name is in the record books as a DQ instead of a win.

1966 Pensacola Open

After shooting a second-round 67 to go along with his opening round 63, Doug Sanders had a four-shot lead. But instead of signing his scorecard, Sanders signed dozens of autographs and forgot to sign his second-round card. While he was in the press room talking about his round he was told that he was disqualified for not signing the card. Back then first place paid $10,000. Sanders estimated the disqualification cost him $25,000 in endorsements with companies that paid bonuses for tournament victories

1987 Andy Williams Open

After finishing the tournament at 270, Craig Stadler went to the scorer's tent feeling that he'd just finished in second place. Instead, he was informed that he was disqualified for a Rules infraction the previous day. On the 14th hole in the third round, Stadler's ball landed beneath a pine tree in a muddy lie. He needed to play the shot from a kneeling position and since he was wearing light-colored trousers he placed a towel on the wet ground and kneeled on it while making the shot. At the time nobody caught the mistake, but the next day while showing showing highlights of the prevouis day's play Rules zealots spotted the error and relayed it to PGA Tour officials. What Stadler had done was violate Rule 13-3, illegally building a stance, and since he didn't add two strokes to his third-round score, he was disqualified for turning in an incorrect scorecard. The disqualification cost Stadler $37,333, which would have been his share of second place.

1990 Palm Meadows Cup

Going into the third round, it was appeared that a classic battle was about to unfold, as Greg Norman had a one-shot lead over Curtis Strange. However, on the driving range he found out that on the first day he had taken an illegal drop from a water hazard. When told of the problem Norman disqualified himself, thus losing a chance at the first-place check of $160,000.

1991 Doral Ryder Open

When Paul Azinger finished his second round, shooting a 65 to get within a shot of the lead, he wasn't ushered off to the press room to recap his round but was met by PGA Tour rules official Mike Shea, who took him to a CBS television truck. A television viewer from Colorado watching the first-round coverage of the tournament saw a Rules infraction during Azinger's round and called up PGA Tour officials, who viewed the tape and agreed with him. What happened was Azinger drove into the edge of the lake on the 18th hole at Doral. The ball was slightly submerged so Azinger decided to go into the hazard and pitch it back in the fairway. While taking his stance in the water, Azinger twice pawed the ground with his left foot, thuse kicking a small rock out of the way. What the Colorado viewer informed the tour on was that Azinger broke Rule 13-4, which prohibits a player from moving loose impediments in a hazard. When Azinger viewed the tape he agreed that he had broken the rule, and since his first-round scorecard was already signed it meant that he was disqualified, even though he was only a stroke out of the lead.

1992 Million Dollar Challenge

Two big disqualifications changed the total scope of the tournament, which is famous for awarding a million dollars to the winner. The first came in the third round when Nick Faldo was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. At the time, he was six back of the third-round leader and was awarded last-place money of $105,000, a lot less than if he could have earned with a solid final round. The other disqualification happened to Nick Price, who was tied for the lead with David Frost. During the round, Price hit a drive into the fairway and his caddie moved an advertising board which was 25 yards ahead of Price's ball. The sign was classified as an immovable obstruction, so Price should have gotten a free drop. He didn't know that, and after his round when his scorecard was already signed, Price learned that he should have dropped instead of taking the sign down. That meant that Price had signed an incorrect scorecard. Even though local officials told Price that he could change the card, Price rejected the offer and left the scoring table, thus disqualifying himself from the tournament. Instead of a chance at either the $1 million winner's check or the runner-up check of $300,000, Price got $105,000.

1993 Shell Houston Open

For Kim Young, a qualifying tournament graduate who had won just $2,343 in his first seven events, his first-round 68 turned into a nightmare. After a rain delay, Young had to finish his round on Friday morning. After he finished he only had 30 minutes before he had to tee off for his second round. In his excitement, he never signed his first-round scorecard. PGA Tour officials didn't notice the error unil Young played a hole in the second round. They informed him on the second tee that he was disqualified.

1994 Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic

A leader of a tournament was disqualified for a Rules violation for the first time in Senior PGA Tour history when Isao Aoki ran afoul of Decision 13-4/11 (smoothing footprints made in search for a ball in a bunker before playing the stroke from a bunker). In the second round, Aoki hit a shot on the ninth hole that plugged in a fairway bunker. After finding the ball he declared it unplayable and picked it up. Then he and his caddie raked the bunker before dropping the ball. According to the Rules, he had improved his lie and should have incurred a two-shot penalty in addition to one stroke for taking the unplayable lie. Aoki was unaware of the infraction and signed for a 68 and was the second-round leader by one. The next day tour officials were informed of the Rules violation, and when a videotape was found that showed Aoki and his caddie raking the bunker it was deteremined that Aoki did violate the Rule. Since he signed an incorrect scorecard, he was disqualified. Aoki was told the bad news while he played the second hole of the third round.

1994 Las Vegas Invitational

All Curt Byrum had to do was finish the tournament and he would have made enough money to retain his playing privileges for 1995. But, on the 16th hole of the final round, Byrum mistakenly played the wrong ball and teed off the next hole with it. When Byrum finished the round he discovered the mistake and paid the price by getting disqualified from the tournament. This dropped him to 128th on the PGA Tour money list. The story had a happy ending, however, as the following week Jose Maria Olazabal decided not to join the PGA Tour, which meant that another spot opened up and Byrum, the man on the bubble, retained his PGA Tour card for another year.

1994 Alfred Dunhill Masters

Nick Faldo was leading by six with just seven holes left to play when it was reported that in the third round he removed a piece of coral from behind his ball in a bunker. On the European Tour this was allowed. However, this tournament, played in Bali, Indonesia, was governed by the Australasian Tour, and so his action was an infraction. Since Faldo had signed an incorrect scorecard following the third round, he was disqualified from the tournament, losing the first-place check of just over $100,000

1995 Burnet Senior Classic

After back-to-back rounds of 69, Bob Murphy was only five shots off the pace going into the final round, but he didn't have a chance because of a Rules infraction that happened in the first round. After the first of two weather suspensions, Murphy retunred to the 12th hole to await the resumption of play. While he was waiting for the round to continue he nonchalantly dropped a ball in the fairway and hit a few shots with his putter. Mike Joyce noticed Murphy's actions and nonchalantly asked a Rules official if this was legal. Even with the answer that it wasn't and that Murphy should have been accessed a penalty, Joyce never told anyone until Sunday morning when he told Murphy about it. Murphy then reported it to tournament officials, and since he had signed his card he was guilty of turning in an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified. Had Murphy shot 69 in the final round instead of being dispaulified, he would have tied for fifth placed and won $40,000.

1996 Bay Hill Invitational

After the second round Jeff Sluman was only two back of the leaders, but he became concerned the night after the round when he thought he may have taken an incorrect drop after hitting into a water hazard. The next morning Sluman returned to the scene and confirmed that the drop area which he used was closer to the hole and that his drop was incorrect. He then disqualified himself from the tournament.

1996 Nike Shreveport Open

While P.H. Horgan III was waiting for the final group to finish before the start of the playoff between himself and Tim Loustalot, he was talking with a Nike Tour tournament director and related an incident that happened during the third round. It seemed that Horgan accidentally moved his ball marker by dropping his ball on it. In talking with his playing partner they agreed there was no infraction and proceeded to play. However, it was a violation of Rule 20-1/5.5 and Horgan should have assessed himself a one-stroke penalty. Since he signed an incorrect scorecard he was disqualified from the tournament, and Loustalot won without having to have a playoff.

1996 Canon Greater Hartford Open

Defending champion Greg Norman, who shared the first-round lead, was disqualified before the third round when it was found that the ball he was using was improperly stamped and not certified by the USGA.

1996 Jamie Farr Kroger Classic

Meg Mallon took the first-round lead with a 6-under-par 65, but then the next day was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had stroked a putt that ended next to the hole and slowly moved for another 18 to 20 seconds until it fell in. At the time, she thought she made a birdie and signed her card for the birdie. But later on LPGA officials caught wind that it could have been a Rules infraction. After investigating the situation, the officials found out that Mallon did violate a Rule by waiting to long for the putt to drop and had no choice but to disqualify her because she signed an incorrect scorecard.

1997 Players Championship

In the final round on the 17th hole, Davis Love III accidentally hit his ball on the putting green with a practice stroke. He did not replace the ball, two-putted from there, and scored himself as having made a bogey 4. However, he should have replaced his ball to the original spot before continuing to putt. Not doing so is a one-stroke penalty, and thus his score for the hole was actually a double-bogey 5. Officials found out about the mistake, but unfortunately for Love it was after he signed his scorecard. So instead of finishing T7th, he was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. The mistake cost Love $105,000 as well as valuable Ryder Cup qualifying points. However, he did go on to make the 1997 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

1998 NEC World Series of Golf

In the first round, Lee Janzen was another in violation of Rule 16-2, waiting too long for his putt to drop in the hole. On the 17th hole his birdie putt hung on the lip. Janzen walked up to the hole, then past it, bent down to survey the ball, and stared at it. He looked at his fellow competitor Vijay Singh, who also walked up and bent down to see the ball creeping toward the hole. About 20 seconds after Janzen arrived at the ball, he went to tap the ball in but it dropped into the hole. After the round he signed for a birdie 3 instead of a par 4. When the incident was later shown on television, viewers contacted PGA Tour officials, who in screening the tape realized that Janzen violated the Rules and disqualified him. At the time, it wasnąt a big deal, but at the end of the year the disqualifaction did cost him a spot on the Presidents Cup team. He luckily got to play on the squad only because Hal Sutton's father-in-law died, forcing Sutton to withdraw and give his spot to Janzen.


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