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Pro Hit with Eye Popping 10 Stroke Penalty


This past Friday, while working remotely and casually glancing at the TV watching golf, I saw something I had never had before in over 30 years of watching the game. I have seen the classic double hit, I have seen Phil chase his ball down and putt it while still moving, heck I even watched Jean Van de Velde melt down like an ice cube in a cast iron skillet. This one however, This one was a first! In case you missed it, here’s what happened:
Mark Hensby was driving a moving truck 14 hours from Scottsdale to San Antonio. Then suddenly, his trajectory changed. With one simple 2-minute phone call, he needed an immediate reroute. Greenlight! You see, that Tuesday, he found out he had gotten into the field at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree. “What, Really”? He exclaimed. To be fair, he was only making his second start in almost 4 years. Hensby, still stiff from the 2-day drive, was excited. He was happy to tee it up. Game on he thought!
Understandably for the 49-year-old Aussie, there were some signs of rust over the first few holes at Congaree, who was also making its PGA Tour debut in 2021. A triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 third on Thursday seemed very costly at the time, but we would later come to find out it had an impact that would go much farther…
This is where it gets interesting. Mark Hensby glanced down and noticed a marking on his ball. It was a dot or a dash on his Titleist ProV1 that he had never seen before and definitely didn’t recognize. He promptly called his playing partners over to get their advice. They all agreed they needed a ruling. Even Senior Tournament Referee Mike Peterson struggled initially to figure out what it meant. The dot – or more accurately the dash – was Titleist’s new ProV1 Left Dash ball, a ball with a slightly different spin profile and a small dash marking. This ball has less spin, a lower flight and a firmer feel than traditional Pro V1’s. The left dash golf ball, is only used by a handful of tour pros currently.

“I asked my caddie, ‘Hey what’s this dot on the ball? I’ve never noticed this before; did they do something with the new pro V1?’” Hensby told PGATour.com. “My caddie, said – Buddy, I have no idea what that is…and since he didn’t know, I asked my playing partners and they were like, ‘That’s a low spin ball.’ Now one thing is for sure, it was not Hensby’s ball. He, after all, does not use that golf ball. He was completely perplexed as to where it had come from. How the heck did he put that ball into play? He went through his bag; he checked all his golf other balls…none of the others had that mark! At that moment, he knew I had played the wrong ball.

Under the Local Rule G-4 – also known as (AKA) the One Ball Rule — Hensby was assessed a two-shot penalty for every hole he used the incorrect ball on. This penalty spanned 5 full holes, a stretch, notably, that he played in 1-under par. Hensby had put the ball into play after finding a penalty area on the fourth hole. He played that same ball until he noticed it on hole 8.
Talk about a BAD BEAT: His bogey-birdie-par-birdie-par run became a triple bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey-double bogey string that all but killed his chances, not only of seeing the weekend, but to even compete in the event. He was devastated. He was frustrated. But more than anything, he was outright confused.
Previously, this type of infraction carried a maximum penalty of four strokes. However now this faux paus, after a 2019 rules revision, carries a two shot per hole penalty. The rationale behind the rule is to prevent a player from using balls with different playing characteristics depending on the nature of the hole or shot to be played. This makes sense, but still seems crazy penal. I mean a 10-shot penalty! That’s unheard of.
Hensby became obsessed with finding out how this had happened. He repeatedly asked himself “How the F*** did a different ball get into my bag, let alone get put into play”? The answer is actually rather simple. It is something that we all have done as golfers at one time or another. Just like Occam’s Razor states, the simplest answer tends to be the truth. In this one, It was case of a putting green mix-up. As Mark warmed up near Pat Perez, who uses the Left Dash ProV1 ball, he must have picked up one of Pats balls. Wait, did that mean that Pat had one of his. Would Perez suffer the same fate? He had to move quickly. Mark got word out to Pat before he put that ball into play. Luckily, for Pat Perez at least, crisis was averted.
“Somehow I picked up one of Pat’s balls and he ended up with one of mine,” Hensby said. “I only found this out because Titleist and I REALLY wanted to get to the bottom of it. I thought they must have had a wrong ball in the sleeve that I had. “If you look at both balls, even side by side, it’s hard to know the difference. It’s not like one is black and one is red. They’re both black, but one has a small dot on it and one doesn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that. I’m just glad he didn’t use mine.”
Hensby’s gaffe moved him from 2-over on the day to 12-over, and for all intent and purpose, ended his bid to make the cut before lunch time on Thursday. Hensby played in, shooting a respectable 1-over par 36 on the back nine to post a 13-over par 84.
“I actually played pretty well considering ,” Hensby said. “I didn’t get off to the greatest start, but I birdied the par 3’s during that stretch and made some solid pars. I was sitting at 2-over at that point and felt pretty good about the holes I had coming up. I was ready to rebound. But after I got the penalty obviously it was tough from that point on, and it was a shame. I not a genius, but I knew my tournament was over.” Hensby withdrew from the tournament after the round.
If that name sounds familiar, which it did to me, you might recognize it from the 2017 anti doping issue. Hensby was involved in a high-profile suspension case by the PGA Tour in 2017. Late that year, he was suspended for violating the circuit’s Anti-Doping Policy. The tour said he failed to provide a drug test sample after being notified to give one at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2017. In the aftermath, Hensby told Golf Digest that he had gone to the bathroom on the 17th hole and told officials he couldn’t immediately provide a urine sample. He said he was told that he wasn’t required to stay.
He ultimately accepted the punishment saying “Don’t get me wrong, a year is a long time, but they have rules,”
Until we see you again Mark. This one was a tough beat, but you will be back. Enjoy Texas. Enjoy the new pad. Most importantly enjoy knowing you have the respect of golfers around the globe. Hensby did something that I am confident Patrick Reed, or the Houston Astros, would have covered up like a blanket on a grease fire!

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