If you tuned into the Greenbrier Classic Sunday afternoon, you would have witnessed an unusual sight. Robert Streb sank some lengthy putts on the back nine without a putter in his bag. Rather, Streb deftly stroked the ball into the hole for several birdies with his sand wedge.
No, this was not the result of some new USGA rule banning putters (the ban on “anchoring” goes into effect next January). The problem was that Streb broke his putter while tossing it to his caddie on the ninth hole. Under Rule 4-3b, a club that is broken “other than in the normal course of play” during a “stipulated round” cannot be replaced during the round.
Surprisingly, Streb putted well enough with his sand wedge to record a 4-under par 32 on the back, which got him into a four-way playoff. When he teed off on the first playoff hole, Streb had a replacement putter in his bag.
Golf fans might have been puzzled that Streb was permitted to replace the putter during the playoff. The reason lies in the definition of “stipulated round,” which states that “the number holes in a stipulated round is 18 unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee.” A play-off in stroke play is not part of the 18-hole stipulated round. Decision 4-3/12 involved a situation similar to Streb’s; a competitor broke a club in anger and made a play-off. The competitor was permitted to replace the club because the play-off constituted a separate round.
Unfortunately, Streb missed the green on the first playoff hole (the par-3 18th hole) and had to use his wedge from long grass, rather than on the putting surface. Danny Lee and David Hearn birdied the hole, and Lee went on to win on the second playoff hole.
Jack Ross covers golf rules issues for NEGM. He is the editor of Ross’s Rulings.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?