The PGA Tour is in the midst of its wrap around season. With the world’s greatest golfers competing, memorable things occur, and sometimes they involve the rules of golf.
One of those took place during the 1987 Andy Williams San Diego Open at the Torrey Pines South Course. Craig Stadler and George Burns were tied for the lead after 36 holes with 13 under par 131s, and thus were paired together in the third round. Playing the 14th hole, Stadler’s tee shot came to rest under the low hanging limbs of a tree. To play the next shot Stadler had to get on his knees. With the ground wet from overnight rain, Stadler placed a towel on the ground to keep his pants dry.
One day later, Stadler made a birdie on the 72nd hole for a 270 total to finish in a tie for second place, four strokes out of first. Burns was the winner with a tournament record 266. Upon walking off the last green, Stadler was informed by a PGA Tour rules official that he had broken a rule during Saturday’s round.
Stadler was told that he had violated USGA rule 13-3. The rule covered building a stance, which took place when he used the towel to protect his pants. Someone had telephoned the PGA Tour office while Stadler was playing the 17th hole on Sunday, stating that a golf rule had been broken. After checking a TV replay, the PGA Tour had to disqualify Stadler. Because of a penalty of two strokes not being assessed on Saturday, he had signed for an incorrect score, which was lower than his actual score. The disqualification cost Stadler $37,333.33.
Skee Riegel, a long time member of the Philadelphia Section PGA, had won the U.S. Amateur in 1947, and after turning pro had finished second to Ben Hogan at the 1951 Masters Tournament. Skee took great pride in knowing the rules of golf and was as good as, or better than any USGA rules official.
The interesting part of this is that Skee had turned on his TV late Sunday afternoon and saw Stadler playing a shot while kneeling on a towel. Not realizing that he was looking at a replay from Saturday, he grabbed his telephone and called the PGA Tour. Thinking that what he saw had happened in the fourth round, he wanted to make sure that Stadler was penalized before he signed for a wrong score, which would have been two strokes lower than his score with the penalty. Skee was only trying to save Stadler from being disqualified.
Skee said, that if he had known what he was seeing had taken place the day before, he never would have made the telephone call. If the tournament officials had not been notified until after Stadler and all the other players had completed the last round, the results would have been final, with no penalty.