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Harold Varner III penalized 2 strokes in bizarre fashion



Another week, and now, yet another rules infraction on the PGA Tour. While we’ve seen penalties handed out in 2019 for improper drops and confusion over the new caddie alignment rule, on Thursday evening, Harold Varner III fell foul of a very different regulation.

Varner III damaged his driver on the range before teeing off on Thursday and began his opening round at TPC Sawgrass with just 13 clubs in his bag after stating his intent to officials that he planned on replacing the club during his round, which is all perfectly legal under Rule 4.1b.

Varner III, wanting to keep the original shaft of his driver, and knowing that under the same rule that he is not permitted to take the shaft with him on to the course and have the new club assembled during play, left the shaft on the tee so that his agent could assemble the driver in the locker room.

However, a walking scorer believing that Varner had forgotten the piece of equipment brought the shaft to Varner on the course, and when the driver’s head was brought out to Varner, and the club was assembled on the course, Varner was deemed to have violated the rule and incurred a two-stroke penalty.

Speaking on the incident, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition Mark Russell stated, per the Tour,

“We were under the impression he was going to take the driver back to the locker room and his agent was going to come back with another one. When they brought the head out and assembled it out there, it broke Rule 4. Can’t do that.

They don’t want clubs assembled and adjusted on the golf course. So that’s the reason for that rule. The rule basically says a player must not build a club from parts carried by anyone for the player during the round. They were aware of that situation, so that’s why he received a two-stroke penalty.”

Russell further explained how he understood that Varner III, who was in discussion with officials throughout the incident but misunderstood the situation, was not trying to gain an advantage, and how the walking scorer in their attempt to be helpful had led to the unfortunate event.

“Harold was trying not to do anything wrong. I guess they (the scorer) were thinking they were helping out or whatever, but when Harold and his caddie were aware that a walking scorer was carrying the golf club and it was assembled on the golf course, that’s when it violated the rule.”

The 28-year-old’s opening 72 was adjusted post round to a 74, leaving him nine shots off the front runner Tommy Fleetwood.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito



  1. geohogan

    Mar 29, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    That scorer could easily have cost the player $50,000 -100,000+

    Its the reason they have rules for pros; that amateurs can ignore, unless they play serious tournaments. Whats that maybe 10-20% of ams?

    Just because opinions count for WMD, doesnt mean they mean anything in golf.

  2. OB

    Mar 18, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    I think there should be an easy solution. They should always ask what the intent was, go by the honor system, and leave it at that, especially if it’s a first time infraction.

    They do it for other rules. This should be the same.

  3. Bo Fadeeznuts

    Mar 16, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Guys not a true wrxer. A true wrxer would have had three shafts at the ready and two tour issue heads with adjustment tools in the bag.

  4. Herm

    Mar 16, 2019 at 8:00 am

    My question to the PGA Tour rules officials …

    What should HV3 have done in this instance to avoid the penalty?

    Not accepted the shaft & had it run back to the clubhouse for assembly?

    It seems to me he was trying to follow the rules …

  5. John Rominger

    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Poor interpretation of rule 4. Varner could have carried the broken club since it did not put him over the 14 club limit. One could argue that carrying the shaft is equivalent to carrying the broken club. It is permissible for someone other than him or his caddy or his entourage to bring a new head to him and it is permissible for him or anyone else to install that head on the course. Of course the PGA Tour may have their own version of Rule 4 that specifically proscribes that, but the USGA Rule j4 as written allows it.

  6. chip75

    Mar 15, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    The question is, why did they assemble the club on the course? why did the head turn up when it was meant to fixed off-course or in the locker room? It would have been completely acceptable for them to get a new club from one of the tour vans, why didn’t he have a back up? I’d argue that there was no intent by the player when the scorer brought them the shaft, but they didn’t assemble the club on the course, so the ruling was fair enough.

  7. Curt

    Mar 15, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Unfortunately he should know the rules. Hence being a pro. Fully deserved DQ. Sorry but I hate when people are messing around with drivers hole by hole.

    • Tony

      Mar 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      That’s what you got out of that. You did read it didn’t you? No intention to change his club setting, it was to get his actual club in his bag after starting with 13.

    • Scratchscorer

      Mar 15, 2019 at 9:23 pm

      Your comment makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

  8. Tiger Noods

    Mar 15, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    So if he steps OB to assemble it, is it still a penalty?

    I’m sorry, but this is one where an exemption needs to be made. The player did not ADJUST a club mid-round. He simply made it a playable condition, and he attempted to follow the letter of the law. It’s like saying if your shoe is untied, you can’t fix your shoe.

    This is sickening, really. I wasn’t a proponent of the PGA doing its own rules, but maybe that’s the way out of this cave. People always follow the pro rules; ask someone about pass interference! And if the PGA clears some of this on-course stuff up, while sticking to the same equipment, maybe we get to a better place.

  9. Mark

    Mar 15, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    It’s ok to protect the field and there should be a way to write a more logical rule. When Tennis, Hockey, Baseball and so forth are allowing to replace broken equipment. R & A, USGA rule makers aren’t there yet…!

  10. Adam

    Mar 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Just insanely dumb. HV3 does everything he’s supposed to do and an outside agent (not his agent) screws it up for him. And he gets penalized. This is so stupid. I sure hope that other players come to his defense. He should definitely get those 2 strokes back.

    • Scratchscorer

      Mar 15, 2019 at 9:25 pm

      I agree. It wasn’t his mistake, it was the walking scorer who screwed it up. Should be no penalty under these circumstances. Varner did everything correctly.

  11. jack

    Mar 15, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Hey PGA Tour and USGA – find some COMMON SENSE!

  12. Dave

    Mar 15, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    What part of this do you not understand?

    Restrictions When Adding or Replacing Clubs. When adding or replacing a club under (1) or (3), a player must not:
    • Unreasonably delay play (see Rule 5.6a),
    • Add or borrow any club from anyone else who is playing on the course (even if the other player is playing in a different group or competition), or
    • Build a club from parts carried by anyone for the player during the round.

  13. dat

    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:32 am

    And people wonder why we have such disdain for the USGA, no one plays by these rules in REAL life, and the game is dying…

    Gee, I wonder why????

    • Simms

      Mar 15, 2019 at 5:23 pm

      Game is dying because they only thing carrying it at the public level is the over 60 golfers playing during the week (5 hour rounds) and only playing the under $40 dollar green fee courses…so the $50 and up nice courses are not getting enough play and the lower end courses (less the $40) are getting the land re-zoned for housing and owners are selling…..

      • Tim Armington

        Mar 17, 2019 at 8:14 pm

        If the 60 year old five hour round guys are only playing the under $40 courses, then why are they developing the land into housing?
        Why wouldnt they develop the elite courses that you say nobody is playing?
        Also, where are the 25 yr old 2 hr round, speaker in the cart with music blaring guys playing?

  14. Boyo

    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Another Philadelphia lawyer rule. Oy vey!

  15. MikeB

    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:06 am

    No wonder golf is not attracting younger players and golf clubs are closing everywhere. This type of severe penalty just seems to typify the ” Golf has Rules” mentality that disuedes young folk from even getting involved with the game. HV3 clearly signalled his intent when he left the driver shaft at the first tee, what more could he have done? Perhaps in hindsight his caddie should have told the scorer to take or have gotten someone else to take it back to where it was left and have it assembled off course, caddies need to think about this stuff and let the player play.
    The other guilty party is the person that brought the new head onto the course for assembly, surely they knew about the rule infringement.
    Either way it’s another nail in the coffin for the mighty game of Golf.

  16. joe

    Mar 15, 2019 at 10:51 am

    One rule the USGA/PGA Tour need to implement is the notion of “common sense”. The governing bodies have already added the word “intention” to some potential rulings, such as the player having the no intention to put the ball in play on a practice swing on the tee box which brushes the golf ball off the tee peg – So clearly there is a way for the officials to remove the fuzziness from tournament play. In this case there was no “intention” for Harold to violate the fundamental reason of why the rule regarding building your club from parts – was implemented. His case was DIFFERENT than the reasons he rule was designed. Come on officials. It’s crystal clear!!! NO INTENTION.

  17. C

    Mar 15, 2019 at 10:37 am

    This ruling makes no sense. It’s a NEW driver head. Not the same one, adjusted during the round for play. So it should be considered a NEW club, therefore, not a 2 stroke penalty. Especially when they all found out how the new head came to be, regardless of who was carrying it, the shaft wasn’t being carried in the bag while they waited for a head.
    I feel sad for golf.

  18. Scott

    Mar 15, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Jebus Crikes, the PGA tour just can’t get out of their own way sometimes. I understand the intent of the rule. But Varner literally did everything he was supposed to do here at the beginning of the round. So because the walking scorer didn’t understand the situation it leaves him with two choices: 1. play the remainder of the round without a driver, or 2. take the two stroke penalty.

    Or, OR, ORRRRRRRR the PGA Tour could actually uses some intelligent thought process here and realize that there was no intent by the play to circumvent the rules and reverse this unjustified two stroke penalty. SMH!!!

  19. Shanker2000

    Mar 15, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Ok, so this is a pretty easy rule to follow, and it even makes sense. BUT…… the HV3 knew the rule, did everything in his power to follow the rule, no harm, good job. A person working at the tournament see’s that HV3 has left something, thinking “I need to grab that for him”, not doing anything wrong either. Then all of a sudden there is a rules violation and HV3 gets hit with a 2 shot penalty. This was not changing a loft setting from one to another, this was not gaining an advantage over any other player and this was not a case where the player HV3 knew the rule was being broken in the act of it happening. There was no need to give him a 2 shot penalty in this instance, there was no need to “Protect the Field” in this case. Reverse the ruling for this instance.

    • Chuck

      Mar 15, 2019 at 10:41 am

      So I want to amplify two things and add one…

      1. “Ok, so this is a pretty easy rule to follow…” Yes. Maybe not “easy” in the trickiest of PGA Tour circumstances, but for the most part, yes; easy.

      2. “…and it (this Rule) even makes sense…” Yes, definitely. The USGA has to make Rules to avoid players taking interminable amounts of time to adjust clubs if they were allowed to on-course… or to fake damage to clubs to get specialized clubs added for specific holes/shots… etc., etc. The Rule makes sense, the more technical you get (and the USGA does have to be technical).

      3. And to add; this is a Rule, and a circumstance, that has little bearing on most recreational players. Who do not have a locker full of OEM-supplied backup clubs, and a tournament staff or personal manager to go get them when and if the need arises. The 2019 Rules changes were in fact intended to make some aspects of the “broken club” problem easier for recreational players. Another thread would be needed to address all of them.

      No doubt there will be much more whining about how the USGA is dumb and inflexible and elitist, without any regard to the actual facts.

  20. James Heard

    Mar 15, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Doesn’t intent account for anything? There was no intention of violation.

  21. D

    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Grow the game

    • alexdub

      Mar 15, 2019 at 10:02 am

      Don’t forget #liveunderpar

      • Chuck

        Mar 15, 2019 at 10:33 am

        #liveunderpar is a PGATour marketing slogan. Has nothing to do with the USGA.

        HOWEVER; if you are going out of your way to mock the PGA Tour (and it was the PGA Tour, not the USGA that made what seems to have been a perfectly correct decision that lots of sports fans don’t like), then fine. Leave the USGA out of it.

        But I think that Mark Russell is one of the very finest rules officials in the game, and with his colleague Slugger White, is part of the best Rules staff in the history of the Tour.

  22. ShanksALotUSGA

    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:49 am

    What is the difference between tightening a screw on the course and walking to the locker room to do it? I get they didn’t want people adjusting their clubs on the course during a round, but I think using a wrench to tighten something is a little different than “building” a club on the course.

  23. bulls9999

    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Is there no ‘body’ or committee that can say, the outside guy (walking scorer) made the mistake and not the player and say ‘no infraction’. This is just dumb, imo.

  24. Crusher

    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:01 am

    They better fix these rules situations fast. It is negative toward the game. Please tell me how Varner’s “rules violation” gave him a competitive advantage over the field? Just plain stupid that he was assessed a 2 stroke penalty. Taking all fun out of playing the game and watching the game.

  25. Tim

    Mar 15, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Wait? Is the scorer considered a ‘rules official’ in any way?

    If so, that means that one rules official brought the shaft to Varner in the middle of his round and another rules official gave him a penalty because of that. He was essentially left with no choice but 1) to assemble the club on the course or 2) wait another hole or two for someone to run back to an area that is considered ‘off the course’ and assemble it.

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Mar 15, 2019 at 5:25 pm

      yes he should have waited for someone to take the shaft and the head off the course and assemble them there because if he knew it was illegal to assemble them on the course he was just being an idiot by doing so.

    • Jack

      Mar 17, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      Scorers are not rules officials. They’re just volunteers who help out and are not experts on the rulebook.

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Morning 9: Women’s PGA | Fox: best golf coverage in the biz? | Michelle Wieturns



By Ben Alberstadt (

June 19, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Henderson, Thompson sizzling heading into Women’s PGA
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson couldn’t get hotter at a better time.”
  • “With three major championships over the next seven weeks, they’ll be looking to make the most of their winning form. They each have a chance this week to reach No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings for the first time.”
  • “Henderson won the Meijer Classic last week, Thompson the ShopRite Classic two weeks ago.”
  • “Ladbrokes makes Henderson the co-favorite to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship with Jeongeun Lee6 at 11/1 odds, with Thompson at 12/1 odds.”
2. Wieturning again
Ron Sirak for…
“But perhaps the most difficult digits to digest are those detailing the impact of the injuries that have disrupted Wie’s career. Without the constant interruptions, her five career wins with one major championship would almost certainly be more. Now, she tries once again to get back into action.”
  • “I’m feeling hopeful,” Wie said Tuesday at Hazeltine National where, on Thursday, she will tee it up for just her ninth tournament round of the year. “It’s still a process. It’s been hard sitting out during the middle of the season. There’s really nothing worse. But I had to take the time to get myself back to where I want to be.”
  • “There is almost no a part of Wie that has not been damaged, beginning with an injury to her left wrist when she fell while jogging in 2007. Since then, she’s had issues with a finger, knee, hip and the other wrist. At times, it almost appears as if her body is held together by multi-colored physiotape.”

Full piece.

3. Arrival of the Wolff
Sean Martin at…”This week’s Travelers Championship is Matthew Wolff’s first tournament as a professional. It may be the most anticipated pro debut in a decade. The consensus collegiate player of the year combines charisma with a swing that is identifiable from a few fairways over.
  • “He wins. He’s unique. His swing is different, so it catches everybody’s eye,” said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. “And then there’s the incredible speed.
  • “When you see somebody with speed … it gets your attention.”
4. Fox the best?
An interesting take from Sean Zak at…
  • “In its five years as the USGA rights-holder, Fox has added something new every year, which, for a sport whose visuals seem to never change, is refreshing and important. One year it was the mic’d up holes, even shadows on the greens to display slopes. Some of it sticks from year to year, some of it doesn’t, but Fox is trying new things and adding new context.”
  • “This year the novelty was epic, highlighted by delicious drone shots along the coast. Blimp shots are great and were more relevant this week than most, but the drones that floated up over Carmel Bay, gliding along with the players, providing the perfect scale of the property – those were new and beautiful. A good broadcast shows viewers everything they must see to better understand a course, but also makes them a bit jealous of everyone there on the grounds.”
5. JT pain free
A few quotes from Thomas…”I have zero pain. I can do everything normally.”
“I could have played Colonial – easily – but it would have been stupid and [my wrist] could have been lingering the entire year,” he said. “This injury should never be an issue again in my life, as long as I do the proper things and don’t do anything stupid. That’s why I waited as long as I did.”
6. Not a fan
The Herald’s (Scotland) Nick Rodger…
  • “As everyday life hurtles along at a furious rate of knots, the golf season too is hammering on. Three men’s majors have already been played and in just four weeks’ time the curtain will come down on the quartet of grand slam events at the Open Championship. It’s rather like uploading a Youtube video onto your laptop and quickly spooling through to the best bits.”
  • “It’s all happening a bit too quickly for my liking,” gasped Colin Montgomerie as the dust settled on last weekend’s US Open even though there’s still probably dust lingering from the previous majors of the US PGA Championship and the Masters.”
7. Jin Young Ko dreaming of Brooks?
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“On a day when LPGA stars filed in and out of the press room at the KPMG Women’s PGA, Ko delivered the line of the day. When asked what it is that she likes about Koepka and how he inspires her play, Ko said: “I met him in my dream, and then we had really great time.”
  • “…He always (has) like a poker face and then like stone.”
  • Ko, 23, put her arms out wide and said, “I like big guy.”
8. What Gary was aiming for
Our Gianni Magliocco…“U.S. Open Champion Gary Woodland made an appearance at SiriusXM’s Manhattan studios on Tuesday, where he sat down to discuss a multitude of topics with Adam Schein on his Mad Dog Sports Radio program – Schein on Sports.”
  • “Woodland also discussed beating Tiger Woods’ total of 12-under-par from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The 35-year-old first mentioned how he recognized that Woods won that tournament by 15 strokes, before adding how he was aware of beating his 72-hole total, saying…”
  • “I knew it, but I was trying to two-putt. I wasn’t trying to make that putt. Once it got halfway there and it went in I obviously let the emotion out. My caddie came over to tell me congrats and I said, ‘You know that clipped Tiger by one?’ And he said, ‘No I didn’t.’ He was focused on the wrong stuff, he was focused on winning, I was focused on beating that record.”
9. A Phireside chat
How to introduce Phil Mickelson’s first Phireside with Phil video…? Mickelson tells a story of an early morning restart at the Memorial some years back and a, um, crappy situation.
My question: This is a clear violation of the rules of tournament play. Is there a provision for situations that make the hole/toilet unusable after restart and necessitate cutting a new cup?


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TaylorMade signs Matthew Wolff to a multi-year deal; Wolff WITB



TaylorMade Golf has officially announced the signing of Matthew Wolff on a multi-year agreement that will see the 20-year-old play the company’s metal woods, irons, wedges, putter and ultimately, TaylorMade’s flagship golf ball, the TP5x.

Wolff had previously unveiled that he would be making his professional debut at this week’s Travelers Championship, and just as top prospect Collin Morikawa did earlier at this month’s Canadian Open, Wolff will do so as a TaylorMade staffer.

The NCAA All-American and 2019 NCAA Division I individual champion made his debut on the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year where he finished T50 after opening his week with a round of five-under par.

Matthew Wolff WITB

Driver: TaylorMade M6 (8 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design TP 7TX

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke 6.5 TX

Utility Iron: TaylorMade P760 (2)
Shaft: Nippon Modus 130x

Irons: TaylorMade P750 Tour Proto (3-PW)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Raw (52, 56, 62 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Copper


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5 questions with Justin Kinney of Virtual Golf Caddy



We chatted with Justin Kinney, founder and CEO of startup Virtual Golf Caddy about his product, which serves both courses and players, by offering drone arial photography of golf courses (with graphics overlayed).

While drone photography and videography of golf courses is an established phenomenon, using the photos and video for better course management and preparation is a relatively new approach.

We wanted to learn more about what VGC is doing, and Kinney was kind enough to answer a handful of questions and include an example of the company’s work.

1. Tell us a bit about your background

I am 38 years old, born and raised in Connecticut. Lifelong golfer. Just finishing up my career as a middle school math teacher to focus on VGC full-time. I also have five years of business experience managing people’s retirement accounts. I played as many sports as I could growing up, and love the thrill of competition.

2. What’s the opportunity you saw?

I agreed to caddie for one of my students two summers ago. When researching the courses he was going to play, there was NO info on the courses. I thought there was a huge opportunity to provide course management strategies for players and give players a view of the entire courses with drones. No one was really doing anything like that, so I spent the past two years working on and building my business plan. Two months ago I secured funding to work on this full-time.

3. What is Virtual Golf Caddy, exactly?

VGC is a golf preparation and mental conditioning program designed to help give golfers a game plan to attack courses with. We provide drone views of each hole as well as course management strategies on how to best play each hole. Shot suggestions are given based on how far and confident players hit their clubs. We include mental conditioning tips and exercises to help players “zone in” more often and consistently. We are considering getting into golf fitness and nutrition as well to help build the whole golfer. Players purchase access to each course’s videos and info for either $15 or $25 per course, depending on how much info they want. They get unlimited access to the videos and can watch them wherever (home, airport, hotel, course).

4. What stage is the business in, and can you show us an example of VCG in action? 

We are still in the start-up phase. We are making agreements with and filming at courses. The website is being redesigned and will be up in June. It appears like things may take off quickly so stay tuned!

For an example, check out the video below.

6. What else should GolfWRX members know?

We are looking for courses to partner with. We will give courses free publicity on our site, a promotional video from the footage to use on their site, and share 15 percent of their courses profits with them. A win-win for everyone involved! If readers know of any courses, please email us.

One other thing to add: the mental prep/conditioning program is being built by renowned sports psychologist Bill Cole, MS, MA. It is legit and comes from over 40 years of research and experience! We’re also pursuing options in fitness and nutrition.

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19th Hole