AUGUSTA, Ga. — Luke Donald was penalized two strokes at The Masters on Thursday for grounding his club while the ball was still in a bunker on the ninth hole. A spokesman for Augusta National, where the Masters is played, told Yahoo Sports that the penalty was reported by a patron to an official on the course.
According to Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun, Donald was informed of the penalty after his round but prior to signing his scorecard. (Had he signed an incorrect scorecard, Donald would have been disqualified.) Donald took a first-round score of 79 (+7), a total that included the two-stroke penalty.
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. He had the right to consult video of the hole, and chose not to do so.
"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."
Thursday night, Donald shared the following thoughts on Twitter:
Got a 2 shot penalty on the 9th today. Left my bunker shot in the bunker and touched the sand before my next shot. Pretty dumb mistake— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) April 10, 2014
I can accept the odd poor shot but making a mistake like that is pretty frustrating and so unlike me.....— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) April 10, 2014
Oh well, nothing I can do about it now, brush it off and try and make a bunch of birdies tomorrow.— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) April 10, 2014