HOURS after compiling one of the finest rounds of his career, Michael Hoey was last night disqualified from the US PGA Championship.
Hoey, 33, had been rightly delighted with the superb second round 70 he’d posted in what Tiger Woods described as “brutal” conditions on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Yet he'd be canned because of a sprinkle of sand and an impatient playing partner, Kevin Na!
The Ballymoney man had been one of only five players to beat par on one of the toughest days in this tournament’s history – the others were Vijay Singh (69), Tiger Woods (71), Ian Poulter (71) and Phil Mickelson (71).
Yet Hoey discovered after his round he’d inadvertently breached Rule 12-1a after his ball embedded in sand on the ninth.
After brushing away a few grains of sand to identify his ball, he failed to try and recreate the lie as perfectly as possible before playing it.
Breach of this new procedure incurs a two stroke penalty, which should have been added to his score on the hole.
Hoey discovered his error later after reading the relevant rule and brought it to the attention of PGA of America rules officials. He knew disqualification was inevitable as he’d already signed for that wrong score at nine. .
When he’d found his ball embedded, Hoey had wanted to call a rules official to confirm he wasn’t entitled to free relief.
However, the group was on the clock and one of his playing partners, Kevin Na, a Korean with a reputation for slow play, convinced Hoey to press on.
“At the time, I’d no idea that I was required cover the ball again,” he said. “All I needed to do was sprinkle a few grains back on top of it and that’d be fine.
“I really should have called for one of the rules guys but Kevin Na told me he knew I wasn’t entitled to relief and kind of rushed me a little bit,” Hoey explained.
Officially, there are no bunkers on the Ocean Course. All sand is considered “through the green” and players can ground their clubs.
The opposite was the case at the 2010 PGA in Whistling Straits, where sand was treated as a hazard, leading to the two stroke penalty which controversially cost Dustin Johnson his place in sudden death.
As a result, PGA of America officials highlighted the rules regarding sand, including balls which may become embedded and the suspicion that he might have done something wrong nagged Hoey after his round.
“The rules guy actually felt bad for me but there was only one option,” Hoey said. “It’s an awful thing to happen.
“I can at least take some confidence from how well I played and making the cut (on four-over), even if, officially, the records say I didn’t,” added Hoey, playing only his fourth Major and first US PGA.
He performed sublimely in gale force winds gusting at over 30 mph across exposed fairways and greens and actually twice birdied the nightmarish par three 17th.
Rory McIlroy, after a fighting 75 yesterday, leads the Irish challenge into the weekend in a tie for fifth on two-under, two shy of co-leaders Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Carl Pettersson (74).
Woods also shared the lead at halfway in June’s US Open but he performed some of that old Tiger sorcery on the greens at Kiawah, where he’s had 23 one-putts in 36 holes.
Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke all shot 76 in the second round. McDowell shared 11th on even par, Harrington 24th on two-over and Clarke 56th on five-over.