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USA TODAY Sports
Zack Johnson got a chuckle and a few gasps Friday at the Masters when his practice swing on No. 13 accidentally clipped his ball off his tee and sent it bouncing off the tee marker. The ball came to rest just a few feet in front of Johnson.
Johnson uttered an expletive, and his playing partners Matt Kuchar and Ian Poulter were equally shocked at what they had just witnessed.
They were all heard saying none had seen anything like it during a tournament.
Thanks to the Rules of Golf, Johnson was not penalized. (Be warned: Johnson can be heard muttering an expletive.)
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A tee ball is only considered in play when a player intends to hit it. Because Johnson’s contact with the ball was obviously accidental during a practice swing, there was no penalty.
The Rules of Golf state: “A player has started a hole when he or she makes a stroke to begin the hole.” A stroke is defined as “the forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.” That implies intent to strike the ball.
Because Johnson did not intend to strike the ball, his miscue didn’t count as a stroke, he had not started the hole and there was no penalty. It was no different than a player accidentally knocking the ball off the tee with the clubhead before starting the hole.
The rules address this directly, saying a player has not made a stroke if he “accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.”
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So Johnson picked up his ball, re-teed it and then drilled it down the fairway. He ended up with a birdie on the hole to get to 1-under for the tournament.