No sport is easier to cheat at than golf. For this reason, golf has the most thorough and complicated rulebook in the history of sport. But one of the biggest ironies of this complex code of rules is that, in trying to prevent “cheating,” it actually makes it more prevalent. How so? Because the rules are so complicated that everyone is bound to break one from time to time without even realizing it.
Such a situation almost happened at the Masters over the weekend. Luke Donald was almost disqualified from the tournament because a smudge on a fax made it look like he’d signed off on an incorrect scorecard.
Fortunately for Donald, the error was discovered and he avoided disqualification. Other players haven’t been so lucky. Over the years, golfers have been disqualified from pro events for breaking just about every rule in the convoluted book.
Today, we bring you a list of the 12 most interesting cases. Hopefully you can learn a trick or two that can help you successfully disqualify your friends the next time you hit the links. (What? Doesn’t everyone always play to win?)
Doug Sanders was on fire through the first two rounds of the 1966 Pensacola Open. He shot 63 in the first round and a 67 in the second, opening up a 4 shot lead. Unfortunately, his hot play garnered a lot of attention, and a throng of fans sought his autograph after the second round. Sanders couldn't pass up this celebrity, so he spent quite some time signing dozens of autographs. Unfortunately, he forgot to sign his name where is mattered most: on his scorecard. He was thus disqualified from the tournament, losing out on the $10,000 prize and another $25,000 in bonuses from the companies endorsing him.
12. Doug Sanders (1966 Pensacola Open)
Jeff Sluman was only two shots back of the leaders at the 1996 Bay Hill Invitational after two rounds. But in going through the first two rounds in his head while lying in bed, he realized that he may have taken an illegal drop after hitting into a water hazard in the second round. The next day he returned to the scene and determined that he did indeed take an illegal drop—he inadvertently dropped the ball closer to the hole. So he reported himself and was disqualified.
If Thierry Henry had been more like Jeff Sluman back in 2009, Ireland would have been in the 2010 World Cup instead of France.
11. Jeff Sluman (1996 Bay Hill Invitational)
Nick Price and his caddy learned a hard lesson at the 1992 Million Dollar Challenge: always, always ask the officials whether than obstacle is considered "movable" or "immovable."
Price was tied for the lead when a tee shot landed in the fairway, but within striking distance of an advertising billboard. They assumed that such a stupidly placed advertisement was considered "movable," so the caddy just picked it up and placed it out of the way so Price could take his shot. Afterward, he was informed that it was in fact considered immovable object—which would have entitled him to a drop according to Rule 24-2 (b) i).
In this case, tournament officials were extremely forgiving, and they offered Price a chance to correct his scorecard after the fact. But Price was too proud to accept the favorable treatment after his mistake, and instead chose disqualification.
10. Nick Price (1992 Million Dollar Challenge)
Oliver shot a 71 in the final round of the 1940 U.S. Open, which put him in a three-way tie for the lead with Lawson Little and Gene Sarazan. Unfortunately, since it seemed that inclement weather was on the way, the group old Porky Oliver was playing with tat day teed off before their scheduled time, with the official starter still out for lunch.
Despite protests from Little and Sarazen, who thought he should be able to compete in the playoff (presumably because they would have done the exact same thing), tournament officials disqualified Porky. The 5'9" 240 lb golfer (hence the nickname) never did win a major tournament before dying at the young age of 45.
9. Ed Porky Oliver (1940 U.S. Open)
On the 9th hole of the 1994 Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic, Aoki buried his ball in a bunker next to the green. After a long search, he and his caddie declared the embedded ball unplayable and decided to just take a drop and an additional stroke—which is totally legal. However, before dropping the ball, the two raked out all the footprints they made while searching for it—which is totally illegal. Since no one noticed the violation until the next day, Aoiki had already signed his incorrect scorecard, which meant he was disqualified.
The Shark had a problem with his balls at the 1996 Cannon Greater Hartford Open. Specifically, they were not properly stamped and certified by the USGA. Thus, even though he was co-leader after the first round, Norman was disqualified.
So let this be a lesson to golfer's everywhere: always get your balls USGA certified.
7. Greg Norman (1996 Cannon Greater Hartford Open)
After being disqualified from the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straights in Wisconsin, Dustin Johnson claimed that he was very well acquainted with USGA Rule 13-4, which says a player can't touch the ground with his hand or club before taking his shot when the ball lies in a hazard. It's just that the "bunkers" at Whistling Straights look more like scruffy patched of turf than traditional sand pits. "It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker."
So how did this infraction come to light? An observant fan watching from home noticed it and phoned the PGA to rat him out. Nice.
6. Dustin Johnson (2010 PGA Championship)
Craig "No, that's not a Walrus, it's Craig Stadler" Stadler thought he finished second at the 1987 San Diego Open (also sometimes called the Andy Williams Open). Then he found out that he broke Rule 13-3 on the 4th hole.
You see, his ball landed in some mud up against a tree on that hole, and Stadler had to kneel down to take the shot. But he didn't want to get his pants all dirty, so he placed a towel on the ground. Unfortunately, kneeling on a towel was considered "building a stance" by tournament officials—which is forbidden by the aforementioned rule.
The infraction cost Stadler $37,000 in prize money. And, just like the Dustin Johnson disqualification, it was a TV view who ratted him out.
How would you like it if someone watching you do your job from their couch at home could cost you $37,000?
5. Craig Stadler (1987 San Diego Open)
In pro golf, as you may be aware, you do not record your own score. Your playing partner does that. Obviously, this method of cheater-prevention was more important before the advent of HD cameras and the internet, but they still use it today.
In 1968, Argentinian Roberto De Vicenzo learned the hard way that you always need to double check the scores on your card before you sign it at the end of a round.
At the 1968 Masters, the poor dude missed a playoff for the coveted Green Jacket by one stroke after his playing partner, Tommy Aaron, accidentally recorded a par 4 for a whole on which Vicenzo had actually shot a birdie 3. Vicenzo didn't catch the error and signed off on his card after completing the final round. Since the error resulted in one extra stroke rather than one fewer stroke, he wasn't automatically disqualified. But Vicenzo did miss out on a chance at immortality...and a lot of money.
Afterward, Vicenzo uttered one of the most famous quotes in the history of pro golf: "What a stupid am I!"
What a stupid indeed.
4. Roberto De Vicenzo (1968 Masters)
Paul Azinger was ejected from the 1991 Doral Ryder Open when his foot accidentally nudged a pebble.
His ball was sitting on the edge of a water hazard, but since it was only partly submerged, he decided he'd wad in and try to give it a whack. While taking his stance, his foot nudged a small rock out of the way. It was pretty harmless, really, but once again someone watching at home noticed the violation and called the PGA to complain. Since Azinger had already signed his card from the round by the time the incident came to light (and thus didn't have a chance to apply the proper 1-stroke penalty), he was disqualified.
3. Paul Azinger (1991 Doral Ryder)
This disqualification proves that, sometimes, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
You see, after a weather delay at the 1995 Burnet Senior Classic, Bob Murphy (pictured) was horsing around a bit on a fairway while waiting for play to officially resume. This horseplay entailed taking a few silly practice putts.
Murphy's playing partner, Mike Joyce, asked a tournament official if such actions were against the rules and found out that, yes, they were. Golfers are not allowed to practice on the competition course on the day of the competition. But Joyce didn't report Murphy, because he knew he wasn't really "practicing." After all, he was on the fairway, not the green. How could taking putts on a fairway help your game?
However, two days later, Joyce told Murphy about the rule, just so he would be aware of it in the future. Mortified, Murphy insisted on turning himself in—a very honorable move. Unfortunately, it is also against the rules not to snitch on someone breaking the rules. So tournament officials also went back and disqualified Joyce.
Brutal. But at least they weren't ratted out by some dude watching at home on TV.
2. Mike Joyce & Bob Murphy (1995 Burnet Senior Classic)
Everyone loves the last scene of Caddyshack, right? Danny Noonan and Al Czervick beat Judge Smails when Danny's putt falls in the hole thanks to a minor earthquake caused by Carl Spackler's attempt to blow up the gopher. It's sports comedy at it's best.
Unfortunately, according to USGA rules, Danny should have added an extra stroke when the ball fell in. That's because there's a rule stating how much time must pass before it is considered "at rest"—you get the amount of time it takes you to walk to the ball from where you putted, plus 10 seconds. If the ball falls in after that time, you have to add a stroke.
Just ask the Lee Janzen (1998 NEC World Series of Golf) or Meg Mallon (1996 Jamie Farr Kroger Classic). Both of these golfers got burned by this rule when they failed to add the penalty stroke when a putt fell in after the time limit had passed.