Russell Knox hit with bizarre penalty at Pebble Beach


Russell Knox’ hopes of winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am suffered a blow early in the final round when the Scot found himself at the centre of a rules SNAFU.

Knox, 35, was sizing up his approach to the first hole when he called in an official for a ruling on a possible infraction.

The two-time PGA Tour winner – out in the penultimate group and lying just two shots off the lead at the time – explained that he saw his ball move slightly after going through his pre-shot routine.

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Knox grounded his club behind the ball, took it away and waggled it. As he started to return the club to its original position behind the ball, he noticed it move fractionally. 

In the exchange with the official, Knox explained: “I was over it. My initial club definitely hit the ground. Then I was up and I waggled again and looked down and the ball had moved a little bit.”

Because Knox’s ball had moved whilst the club had been in the air for a period of time, the rules official determined that there was no penalty and Knox proceeded to par the hole. Birdies at the second and third got him to within a shot of the lead. 

Whilst all that was happening, tour officials were giving the incident further scrutiny.

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After Knox hit his tee shot on the fifth, he was informed that the situation had been re-assessed and that it had been decided that he had likely caused the ball to move. As such, he was given a one-shot penalty in accordance with Rule 9.4(b).

It states: “If the player lifts or deliberately touches his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the player gets one penalty stroke.”

This rule was modified in the 2019 update to the Rules of Golf to allow players who accidentally cause their ball to move on the putting green to proceed without penalty. Anywhere else on the course, however, it’s a one-shot penalty if it can be determined with near certainty that the player caused the movement.

Maverick McNealy was hit with the same penalty earlier in the tournament.

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