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By Brian Wacker
KAPALUA, Hawaii — It took all of a round-and-a-half for the first rules infraction of 2019 to take place on the PGA Tour. And it involved Dustin Johnson.
Playing the par-4 fourth hole on the Plantation Course during the second round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Friday, the defending champion pulled his drive left and into a hazard. When he reached where the shot landed, a volunteer marshal pointed out the ball and Johnson hit it out of the hazard.
Only it wasn’t his ball. Johnson realized as much before playing his next shot, and under Rule 6.3 was hit with a two-stroke penalty for playing the wrong ball.
“Obviously it was my fault,” Johnson said. “The marshal had it marked, said it went in the hazard right there, so and there was a ball right there and it was a TaylorMade. I could see the logo on the side, so I just, obviously, just assumed it was mine. And it was way up in there, so I didn’t want to move anything. But I guess now understanding the new rule, I still, I got to identify, if it moves it’s not a penalty. So that won’t ever happen again. I can promise you that. But, yeah, it’s just bad luck.”
He realized he’d hit the wrong ball when he saw his original ball as he walked forward about 20 yards. Johnson went on to finish the hole with what would have been a par without the penalty. Instead, he made double bogey.
It could have been worse. Had Johnson teed off on the next hole after finishing the fourth with the wrong ball, he would have been disqualified.