Brendan Steele already was facing a difficult task at this week’s Wyndham Championship. The three-time PGA Tour winner was 169th on the FedEx Cup points list, meaning he had to have a top-three finish at Sedgefield Country Club in order to leap inside the top 125 at week’s end and be eligible to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs. It was easier said than done considering Steele’s best finish in 21 starts during the 2018-’19 season was a T-14 at the CJ Cup last October, and an opening-round 70 on Thursday meant he had plenty more work to do.
The 36-year-old California native didn’t help himself, however, when he received a two-stroke penalty during Friday’s second round for a relatively rare breach of the Rules of Golf: Using an alignment stick during a round.
As originally reported by GolfChannel.com’s Will Gray, Steele had stumbled at the start of his round, going four over par on his first three holes. After hitting his approach shot on Sedgefield’s par-4 13th hole (Steele’s fourth), Steele turned to his caddie and asked about his alignment. The caddie proceeded to take out Steele’s alignment stick, which is legal to carry during competition. However, Rule 4-3 states that players are prohibited from using golf training or swing aids during a round.
“I thought maybe that would be a problem,” Steele told GolfChannel.com.
Steele consulted a rules official, who confirmed that he needed to add a two-stroke penalty to his score on the hole. Instead of a par, Steele had to take a double-bogey 6. A bogey on his next hole had him seven over on the round after five holes. To his credit, Steele was two under for the remainder of the day, but posted a five-over 75 that cause him to miss the cut.
Interestingly, Steele learned that had he used something different to check himself on the hole, he might have been clear of any penalty. “[The rules official] said that an umbrella and a club was fine to use, but stick’s not,” Steele told GolfChannel.com. “It’s one of those things.”
Indeed, Rule 4-3 specifies that “any type of golf training or swing aid [such as an alignment rod or weighted head cover or ‘donut’] or a non-conforming club to make a practice swing or in any other way that creates a potential advantage by helping the player in preparing for or making a stroke [such as help with swing plane, grip, alignment, ball position or posture].”
The saving grace for Steele? While he’ll finish the season watching the Playoffs at home, he still has his PGA Tour card for 2019-’20 thanks to his victory at the 2018 Safeway Open.