GULLANE, Scotland – The golf fan strikes again, or so says Martin Laird.
The Scotsman was assessed a 1-stroke penalty after failing to alert his playing partner that he was going to identify his ball that landed in the weeds on No. 10. Thing is, he did alert Dustin Johnson, at least he says he tried to alert him.
"I put the tee in the ground and didn't even lift my ball – just moved it quarter roll to see the number – and someone in the crowd over there saw it, and told the rules official that I hadn't alerted my playing competitor that I was going to do that," Laird explained. "I said I'm going to identify my ball, but I didn't shout it across the fairway loud enough so he could hear, so that was deemed to be a one-shot penalty."
Not that it mattered in the grand scheme. Laird, who entered Round 3 just two strokes back of the lead, effectively took himself out of contention when he carded a 9 on the par-4 third. He ended up shooting an 81, putting him 12 shots off the lead.
A rules official notified Laird of the penalty as he walked up the 16th fairway, at which point he tried to explain that he had, in fact, attempted to notify Johnson. The official was not swayed.
"I believe he maybe said it to the ball spotter, who was in closest vicinity," explained rules David Rickman, the R&A's director of rules and equipment. "But the rule is very specific. It needs to be the fellow competitor, the fellow competitor is there to protect the interests of the rest of the field, and therefore, we are specific about who that needs to be."
Rickman did not know who blew the whistle on Laird, though he disputed it was a spectator.
However Laird got called out, the penalty did make a bad day worse.
"It's the fact that none of them heard it, even though I said it," he said. "So it's one of those lovely rules of golf."