Bunker Mentality

How a fan at the Masters helped Luke Donald get a two-shot penalty

Bunker Mentality

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Luke Donald plays out of the sand on day one of The Masters

Luke Donald was penalised two strokes at The Masters on Thursday for grounding his club while the ball was still in a bunker on the ninth hole.

That's unusual in itself - professionals almost never make those sorts of silly mistakes. But even more unusual is the fact that the infringement wasn't spotted by Donald himself, or a rules official, or a fellow competitor... but by a fan on the ground at Augusta National itself.

A spokesman for Augusta National confirmed to Yahoo Sports that the penalty was reported by a "patron" - as fans are called at Augusta - to an official on the course.

According to Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun, Donald was then informed of the penalty after his round, but prior to signing his scorecard. (Had he signed an incorrect scorecard, Donald would have been disqualified.)

It turned Donald's six on the 9th hole into a quadruple-bogey eight, and helped him rack up an awful first-round score of 79 (+7).

Shortly after the conclusion of play on Thursday night, Yahoo Sports spoke to a patron from Atlanta who agreed to speak on condition of partial anonymity. John, 40, indicated that he and a companion were seated near the bunker on No. 9, about 15 feet from Donald.

"He hit the ball fat, it hit the lip, and rolled back down to his right," John said. Donald then "smacked the sand," in John's words. The USGA's Rule 13-4 prohibits a player from touching the sand in a bunker for any purpose other than smoothing or cleaning.

At the time, John and his companion found the "smack" a little suspicious, but didn't immediately report it. Later, while walking near the fairway at 11, they spotted a rules official in a golf cart and struck up a conversation. Their topic: Rule 13-4.

"We didn't intend to report it, but I thought I knew how the rule works, and it seemed so obvious to me," John said. He doesn't recall the exact sequence of events that followed, but he offered a hypothetical about 13-4 to the rules official. When it became clear to the rules official that John and his companion knew something, the official asked for more specifics, and John replied with the details of Donald at the Hole 9 bunker.

"He drove off, and we were like, 'Holy s---,'" John said. "It was kind of crazy. We didn't think we were setting wheels in motion."

Donald was informed of the penalty after he walked off the 18th green, and did not protest the ruling.

Indeed, he confirmed after his second round on Friday that he knew full well what he had done and had gone to confess before the rules officials were even able to challenge him on the incident.

"I was very aware that I did it," Donald said after his Friday round.

"I had a pretty good idea it was a penalty. But I didn't want to talk to a rules official during the round. So as soon as I finished, I found [Masters competition committee chairman] Fred Ridley and brought it up."

Donald didn't grumble at all about the penalty, but was clearly incredulous at his own lapse as he explained on Twitter:

Frustrating indeed - with a tightly-packed field, Donald might have been able to make the cut after an opening 77 if he brought off a decent second round... but recovering from seven over par to make the weekend will require something incredible.

Eurosport / Jay Busbee, Yahoo!

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