The 7 weirdest moments in golf in 2017

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Shawn Stefani stripped down to his skivvies to play a shot from the water during the 2017 Honda Classic.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, November 02, 2017 | 12:26 p.m.

Over the course of a golf season, a lot of weird things can happen on the golf course.

Maybe there's an obscure ruling, a crazy shot, or even a rogue leaf (we'll get to that in a minute).

Here are the seven weirdest moments we'll remember from 2017.

7. A sprinklerhead swallows Rickie Fowler's golf ball

It happened during the final round of the Honda Classic. Fowler's ball was off the back of the green and sitting in the fringe. Instead of chipping, he elected to go with the putter from off the green. The ball, well, never made it to the green.

No worries, though. Fowler got relief from the sprinklerhead, made bogey and went on to win the tournament.

6. Shawn Stefani strips down to underwear to hit water shot

Interestingly, this also happened at the Honda Classic. Professional golfers will do anything to save a stroke. Stefani wasn't the first golfer to strip down to his skivvies to play a shot and he surely will not be the last.

5. LPGA player hits hole with chip, ball rolls out into nearby pond

From the "you've got to be kidding me" department comes this entry from Pornanong Phatlum during the final round of the LPGA's Texas Shootout. As we can see in the video, the conditions that day were absolutely brutal.

Sure, Phatlum's pitch shot came in a little hot, but after it hit the hole, did it really deserve that kind of fate? Sometimes it's just not your day.

4. College golfer assessed penalty for failure to find ball he dropped in the water

This doesn't happen every day. Jacksonville University senior David Wicks was playing in the NCAA's Baton Rouge Regional when something truly bizarre happened.

After his first putt finished 3 feet from the cup on the 13th hole, Wicks marked it and picked it up to clean it. Wicks got out of the way as his playing partners took their turns to putt. As he reached into his pocket to grab his scorecard by a water hazard, Wicks' ball fell out of his pocket, bounced off his shoe and into the lake.

CAA rules state that a golfer must find their personal ball in order to continue the hole without any penalty. Wicks stripped down to his underwear and dove in with a five-minute time limit.

Wicks found about 20 golf balls -- none of them his own -- and took a two-stroke penalty. There was a silver lining, however. His team was able to advance through to the NCAAs for the first time in school history.

3. Ben Crane's two, four-shot penalties for non-conforming clubs and eventual DQ

So strange. After playing the 10th hole -- Crane's first of the day -- in the Web.com Tour's Boise Open, he noticed a tiny dot sticker on his driver while on the 11th tee box. Crane uses the stickers during practice sessions to help his launch monitor track data.

Crane brought the sticker to the attention of a rules official and was assessed a four-stroke penalty for using a non-conforming club. Had Crane noticed the the sticker before putting out on the 10th hole, the penalty would have only been two shots. But, since he was between holes, he had to take the two-stroke penalty for each hole.

Later, on the 14th hole, Crane noticed that his 6-iron -- which he hadn't yet hit -- also had a sticker on it. There, he received a second four-stroke penalty that went back to the 11th hole, which is the maximum amount punishable under rule 4-2: Playing Characteristics and Foreign Material.

The next morning, Crane was disqualified for failure to declare that his 6-iron was out of play.

2. Web.com Tour player's penalized after leaf moves golf ball

This could quite possibly be the weirdest thing you'll ever see on a golf course. The player -- Matthew Southgate -- hit a short putt. As the ball was in motion, a leaf blew on the green, hit the ball and sent it off line.

A befuddled Southgate, tapped in in disgust and went on with his round.

Afterwards, he was informed he'd incurred a two-stroke penalty for what happened with the leaf, as defined in Decision 19-1b, which states:

"If a player's ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped by, or comes to rest in or on, any moving or animate outside agency, except a worm, insect or the like, the stroke is canceled. The ball must be replaced and replayed. "

Southgate did not replay the shot from its original spot, resulting in the two-stroke penalty.

The freak incident ultimately played a part in Southgate missing out on a PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season.

1. Lexi Thompson assessed four-stroke penalty while leading ANA Inspiration

Lexi Thompson looked to be cruising to a major championship triumph at the ANA Inspiration. She had a four-stroke lead as she was headed to the 13th tee.

And that's where the craziness happened.

Thompson was approached by a rules official who informed her that a television viewer contacted tournament officials about an infraction Thompson committed on a short putt a day earlier.

Thompson improperly replaced her golf ball. It was a two-shot penalty. And, since she signed for an incorrect score -- remember, she had no knowledge of the penalty when she signed her card -- she was assessed another two-stroke penalty.

Thompson would lose the tournament in a playoff -- a real heartbreaker.

Shortly after, a new rule was put in place limiting the use of video replay. It did Thompson no good after the fact, however.


 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.