For a split second one of the game’s best ball-strikers was made to look like a mere mortal.
John Senden’s tee shot at the par-5 ninth during the opening round of the Australian PGA Championship went horribly wrong when his driver snapped mid-swing, his driver crashing into the turf several inches inside the ball that remained untouched on the tee.
As playing partner Geoff Ogilvy made the case that Senden had not deliberately swung at the ball, rules officials convened to determine whether the stroke would in fact count.
With his driver out of play, Senden was told that he could play the ball as it lay on the tee or take a free drop from the ‘obstruction’ which the veteran Queenslander did, hitting iron well wide of the fairway for his second shot, going on to make bogey.
Officials conducted a further review of the footage and waited for Senden to complete his round before determining that the ‘air swing’ ruling would stand and his score for the hole a bogey six.
Chief Referee of the European Tour John Paramor – who witnessed a similar incident involving Brian Waites at the Lancome Trophy more than 30 years ago – explained that the intention to swing at the ball could not be sufficiently argued and that it would subsequently be considered a stroke.
Two-under at the time, Senden finished the first round even par after making bogey at the par-4 18th but was philosophical about being penalized one stroke in such bizarre circumstances.
“There's no exception, it's just the rule,” Senden said following a lengthy deliberation in the scorer’s tent.
“Isn't that how it works? You can't argue against the one (shot penalty).
“Unfortunately, when your intent is to hit a shot and you don't hit it, it's one stroke. That's the way it goes.
“The actual club broke in the handle coming down into the impact area.
“I had no chance of actually stopping the shot, so unfortunately that counts as actually one stroke.
“I've seen it happen before to other players, but first time it's happened to me in a tournament.
“It was just the force of it coming down and then snapped right in front of my forefinger on the right hand. And when the club collapsed in this area, I come down and had no chance of stopping the shot.
“The whole thing actually spooked me a bit.”
Senden wasn’t the only player in the group to be affected with playing partner Harold Varner III explaining that it remained a topic of discussion for the following five holes and rattled both he and Geoff Ogilvy.
“It affected all of us. It was a momentum killer, it was kind of awkward and, to be honest with you, it sucked," said Varner, the 2016 champion at Royal Pines.
“It was so bad we were still talking about it on No.14.
“He handled it well. He’s a class act.”
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