Zach Johnson, a Masters champion and still a top-100 player in the world, did something you literally could have done yourself at Augusta National hole on Thursday:
Johnson was about to tee off at Augusta’s par-5 13th hole, making his way through Amen Corner as he’s done 100 or so times before. (He’s played every Masters since 2005 and won in 2007, along with untold dozens of practice rounds.) He launched into what he likely figured was a standard practice swing, but he had his alignment wrong and hit the ball off the toe of his driver, spinning it off the wooden tee marker at the start of the 510-yard hole.
Check out the trajectory on that firecracker:
It didn’t count, because Johnson apparently wasn’t trying to hit the ball
He lined up his club head well to the left of where the ball was teed, or at least thought he had, which indicates that he didn’t intend to hit the ball with his practice swing.
If the ball’s not already in play, there’s no penalty for just picking it up, re-teeing it, and playing your shot as planned in that circumstance. Had Johnson accidentally hit the ball once it was already, say, in the fairway, that would’ve been a different story. He’d have had to just play it, or replace it with a one-stroke penalty, as per the USGA rules of golf.
He proceeded to birdie the hole, because sometimes, ball does lie.
After Johnson re-teed, he stroked a 285-yard drive down the left side of the fairway, with exactly the kind of soft, drawing ball flight the 13th hole invites. That left him 196 yards to the pin, and he stuck an iron 30 feet out, then two-putted for his four on the par-5.
It moved him to 1-over for the week, still a ways from contention.
So, while Johnson’s moment will be unaccounted-for in the record books, it will hopefully never escape the annals of history.
For a brief moment, we all got to see a Masters champion play Augusta with exactly the level of competence we would play Augusta. Never let us forget it.
Has this happened to you before?
It has indeed happened to me, sort of. The difference between Johnson’s episode and mine is that I wasn’t taking a practice swing.
Some years ago, I was teeing off the par-4 second hole at Mt. Lebanon Golf Course near Pittsburgh, a nine-hole course a few minutes from my house. I was playing either the white or the blue tees, so there were a few sets of tee markers in front of me.
I topped the ball with my driver, and also sliced it enough that it ran forward and to the left. (I am a southpaw.) It bounced off the thing and flew back at me, and I had to duck to avoid decapitating myself with a bad golf shot. I lost the ball, because it flew into a backyard behind me, and I was not in the mood to climb the fence. But I retained my skull.
Hit me with your golf-shot horror stories in the comments.