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Irish professional golfer penalized in British Open qualifier playoff for 15th club

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David Higgins — Getty Images

There are plenty of crazy rules in the game of golf that makes one question why in the world it's in the rulebook to begin with, but one of those rare black and white requirements is how many clubs you're allowed to play with in a tournament.

Fourteen is the number, with absolutely no exception the rule. Bring an extra club and you receive a two-stroke penalty per hole you've played with the additional stick, and David Higgins found that out the hardest of ways.

Higgins, a 41-year-old professional golfer from Waterville, Ireland, was attempting to qualify for his third British Open championship. Higgins had shot 70-67 at the North Berwick site to get into a 3-for-2 playoff for a spot at the third major of the year, and was playing Gareth Wright and George Murray for those final two spots.

As the playoff started, Higgins noticed a 15th club in his back, and after announcing it to his group, was assessed a two-stroke penalty, resulting in a double-bogey on the first playoff hole and a frustrating end to what had hoped to be a season-changing playoff.

The Irish Golf Desk noted afterwards that Higgins had dumped his clubs in his trunk following play, not realizing there would be a playoff, and had stuck that 15th club in his bag as he was planning to leave North Berwick without more golf in his future.

This practice isn't unusual for professional golfers. When I caddied for a friend on the LPGA she always carried a second driver around with her, we just had to make sure the second driver was never in the bag when the tournament actually started. Other tour players are always tinkering with different clubs and lofts and options off the tee, so carrying an extra club or two is fairly normal.

The problem, of course, is keeping it in the bag for tournament play. Higgins will most definitely be kicking himself for pulling an Ian Woosnam, and will undoubtedly count his clubs from this point forward before teeing off in any event.

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