ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Boo Weekley tried to spare his partner a penalty. He wound up incurring one himself Saturday in a bizarre act of sportsmanship-gone-bad at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I learned another rule in the game of golf,” Weekley said after his 67 turned into a 69.
Tom Johnson hit to the right side of the green on the par-3 second hole, some 85 feet away from the flag. Because of the steep slope on the green and the back-left hole location, his best chance was to chip off the putting surface onto the fringe and have the ball trickle down toward the cup.
“I spaced out and forgot to tell my caddie to tend the pin,” Johnson said. “I thought it was a great act of sportsmanship.”
Johnson’s chip came off perfectly, landing on the fringe and rolling toward the flag. Weekley knew that if the ball struck the pin while it was still in the hole, it would be a two-shot penalty against him.
“I ran over and pulled the pin out,” he said.
Someone in the gallery mentioned something to the rules officials, who talked to Weekley and Johnson when they went into the scoring trailer after the round to sign their cards. Weekley played in the worst conditions Saturday, with strong wind and temperatures in the 50s, yet played what Johnson called “flawless” golf and took 67 shots, at the time the best score of the third round.
“They asked me if I authorized Boo to pull the pin,” Johnson said quietly. “And I didn’t.”
It was the second time this month that Weekley has made news for the wrong reason. He missed a 3-foot par putt at the Honda Classic that would have given him his first PGA Tour victory, then lost the next day in a four-man playoff.
Both times, he shrugged it off.
“He said to the rules officials, ‘Thanks. I learned something.’ But it was painful for me,” Johnson said. “I put my arm around him and said, ‘You handle adversity better than anyone I’ve ever played with.'”
Weekley was at 1-under 209 for the tournament.
“It would have been one thing if I was playing bad,” Weekley said. “But that’s golf. I don’t think nothing about it.”