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Austin Johnson finds the correct ball Friday in the lake surrounding the fourth green at TPC Sawgrass.

It's not often that your brother will tell you to go jump in a lake, and you'll do it.

But that's exactly what happened to Austin Johnson on Friday during the second round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, and with good reason. It saved brother Dustin two penalty strokes.

In one of the odder situations that can crop up on a golf course, Dustin Johnson had marked his ball on the fourth green, near the edge where water comes into play. Somehow while trying to toss the ball to his brother, who caddies for him, the ball slipped out of Dustin's hand, went over the railroad ties and rolled into the lake.

According to Chip Essig, 2011 National PGA Golf Professional of the Year and Vice Chairman of the PGA of America's Rules Committee, a couple of Rules then came into play.

"Rule 16 states that if you lift the ball on the green, you've got to mark it and the ball's got to be replaced," Essig said. "And Rule 15 tells us we can't substitute a ball in that situation. There are instances where you can replace a ball. Unfortunately, picking it up off the green to clean it and putting it back is not one of them.

MORE RULES: Why taking relief may not be your best option

"You've got to put back the same ball you lifted. ... There used to be no way to get a ball back into play if you lost your original ball like that."

If that happened in the past, the player was disqualified, Essig said. Since the Rules were modified, it was changed to a two-stroke penalty for substituting a ball.

"Obviously, Dustin really didn't want the two-stroke penalty so he made his brother go down in the lake and find the ball," Essig said.

So as Dustin Johnson, fellow competitor Bubba Watson and a Rules official looked on, Austin climbed down into the water -- with sneakers on -- and lo and behold, found Dustin's ball on his first try.

The whole episode was caught on camera.



Disaster averted.

"A lot of times those lakes have enough slope in them that when the ball goes in, it rolls five or six feet further down," Essig said. "And there's a good chance there's a lot of balls in there. The fact that they pulled up a ball and it was his, is pretty lucky, too.

"The other thing that I'd be concerned about -- there's alligators in those lakes."

UNLUCKY BOUNCE: Rory McIlroy's penalty drop winds up wet

Why does Rule 15 exist in the first place? Essig explains.

"You've got to finish the hole with the ball you started with," he said. "They don't want a ball that you can hit off the tee that doesn't spin very much and goes farther, and then a ball you can hit off a fairway that spins a lot so you can stop it. And then you get to the green and get a ball that hasn't been hit at all that should be more round -- truer -- to putt with.

"They want you playing the game with one ball."

However, there are exceptions to the Rule. Essig said because of hazards, it's impractical to require golfers to find every lost ball. So a ball can be substituted in certain situations. If the ball goes in a water hazard, you can drop any ball with a one-stroke penalty. Same with the unplayable ball rule. You can also switch out a ball that's damaged in the course of play.

So the lesson to be learned?

"Never throw your ball to your caddie near water, because you don't want to lose it," Essig said. "It's one of those odd situations. How many times in a tournament does Dustin throw the ball to his brother and he never drops it? And the one time it drops, it's next to water and you've got to go get it."

PGA Tour/YouTube
Russell Knox smiles after finally reaching the island green -- in 7. He'd go on to make a 9.

Russell Knox lived every golfer's nightmare Saturday in the third round of the Players. And yet, he could still joke about it hours later.

Standing on the tee at the iconic No. 17 island green, Knox plopped not one, not two, but three balls in the water before moving over to the drop zone and finally landing one safely on his seventh shot. He wound up carding a 9.

If you want to relive Knox's difficulties, here's a video recap.





The second attempt is the hardest to watch, as Knox hit a shank that almost landed on the television camera stand on the other island in the lake, way right of his intended target.

Knox was able to make fun of his shot on social media later, and promised he'd get even with TPC Sawgrass on Sunday.





That's a heck of an attitude, especially given the circumstances. 



May 13, 2016 - 2:47pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Will Wilcox
@PGATOUR on Twitter
Until Will Wilcox stepped to the tee at the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass on Friday, it had been 14 long years since the last time an ace had been made on that hole in the Players Championship.

It's been 6,296 tee shots and 14 years since a hole-in-one has been made on the famous par-3 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass in the Players Championship.

That was when Miguel Angel Jimenez turned the trick in the first round of the 2002 Players.

On Friday, during the tournament's second round, Will Wilcox snagged the seventh ace on the 17th in Players history.

Check out this beauty:


Is there a better place in golf to make an ace? 

Lydia Ko/Twitter
Lydia Ko and Prince Harry pose for a photo.

Being the No. 1 golfer in the world -- and an ambassador for the Invictus Games -- has its perks. Like meeting a real prince.

The inaugural Invictus Games were held in 2014 as a way for wounded armed services personnel to participate in multiple sports, much like the Paralympics. It was the brainchild of Prince Harry of Great Britain, as a way of making sure the efforts of soldiers who participated in the Afghanistan conflict were fully appreciated, and to "... use sport as a way to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and demonstrate life beyond disability."

So when Orlando offered to host the second Games, Ko was asked to be an ambassador. And on Wednesday, she had the opportunity to meet Prince Harry, as this tweet shows.



Ko has had a pretty awesome 2016. She was in attendance at the Masters earlier this spring, had a chance to practice putting with NBA MVP Stephen Curry and won a tournament in her native New Zealand despite having an earthquake interruption.

May 12, 2016 - 10:17am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rob Labritz
USA Today Sports Images
Trying to beat those milestone scores like 100, 90, 80 and 70? In the final piece of this four-part series, PGA Professional Rob Labritz offers up some great advice that's sure to make you a better player. For this week, Labritz focuses on those trying to break 70.

Now that you’ve mastered all the prerequisites for breaking 100, 90 and 80 – working from the green backwards – you might be wondering: what is it that I have to do to break 70?

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. PGA Professional Rob Labritz is a guy who breaks 70 often. The key, he says, is putting in an immense amount of time at your game, honing all those skills it took to break those other milestone scores.

“It might not be as simple as it sounds, but you have to eliminate every mistake you might typically make,” Labritz said. “A perfect round – in golf terms – would mean you hit every fairway, hit every green and take two putts. Eighteen pars. On most courses, that’s a 72. With that mindset, now you have to figure out where you can attack the course to break 70.”

RELATED: Advice for breaking 100 | Advice for breaking 90 | Advice for breaking 80

It’s not as simple as walking to the first tee and sticking the peg in the ground. Just like anything else you desire to be great at, it requires some homework. For Labritz, that means studying the golf course and examining the scorecard.

“Here’s what you do to break 70,” Labritz said, “it starts with birdieing all of the par 5s. The par 5s are giving you an extra shot. If you’re an above average driver, birdieing all the par 5s is a must. See how long the par 5s are and ask yourself: can I reach the green in two? If the answer is ‘no’ then ask yourself: where do I have to positon myself to have the most comfortable wedge shot possible to get close in three?”

With the birdie mindset on the par 5s, Labritz said you have to shift to a par mindset for the par 3s. With ball in hand (on the tee), Labritz said, you should be able to do that.

Now, here comes the wildcard: The par 4s.

“The par 4s are funky,” Labritz said. “You birdie the par 5s, par the par 3s and then you pick your spots on the par 4s. Some you can attack. You have to approach it like this – if you have a wedge in your hand on a par 4, it’s a birdie club. You should get it close. When you break down the par 4s, see where you can attack with the driver. Then there are holes you won’t hit driver on. In those spots, put yourself in the most comfortable positon off the tee for your scoring shots. Pick a number you feel most comfortable with and make sure you’re setting yourself up with those clubs.”

If you’re breaking 70, Labritz explained, it’s because you’re managing your game around the course.

“It’s about breaking down the course to suit your game to where you feel comfortable,” he said. “You also have to know where not to hit shots. There are no-zones where you definitely don’t want to be in those areas because making par is a hard ask. Stay away from OB and the hazards. If you’re hitting in those spots you need to make a lot of birdies. And, it probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – you’re going to need to make a lot of putts.”

If you’re like most people, chances are you freak out a little bit when you’re on the cusp of breaking a “milestone score.” You know the feeling. You’re standing on the 18th tee, sniffing the round of your life. Suddenly, your palms get sweaty, you start thinking ahead, you leave “the moment” and 10 minutes later you’re bummed out because of a disaster finish when you were oh-so-close.

Labritz has a sure-fire plan to get you comfortable with shooting low scores.

“When you’re practicing, play a bunch of rounds from the forward tees, and for women, play from where the fairway starts,” he said. “Instead of playing from your normal 7,000 yards for men, get in the 5,800-yard range. And less than that for women. Two things will happen here. One, you won’t be hoping to shoot a low score – you’ll expect to shoot a low score. And two, you’re going to get a lot of work on your scoring clubs. You get a sense of playing pretty far under par and how to score. See how low you can shoot. Several rounds under par later following this advice, you’re going to build a confidence when it’s time to move back.”

That, Labritz said, is how he got comfortable shooting low scores – something he had to get comfortable with if he was to have any success on the mini-tours he was playing, where guys were shooting 7- or 8-under par every day.

“Doing that helped me a bunch,” he said. “People can freak out. We get diluted and think about the future too much. When you’re a better player, your score correlates with your preparation, of course, but also your mindset and attitude.”

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008 and 2013, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.