The Rules Geek: 20 Seconds Is Too Late for Rory Sabbatini

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek is an occasional and potentially annoying feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

IMAGINE ARRIVING 20 SECONDS LATE for a tee time. No big deal, right? Wrong, as Rory Sabbatini found out at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a couple of weeks ago. Sabo showed up 20 ticks late for his second round tee time and got slapped with a two-stroke penalty.

Nothing against the prickly South African, but The Rules Geek loves it. The rules are the rules. Twenty seconds late is late. So is one second. Zero tolerance.

The Rules Geek: 20 Seconds Is Too Late for Rory Sabbatini 1Here’s the penalty for breach of Rule 6-3a:

“If the player arrives at his starting point, ready to play, withing five minutes after his starting time, the penalty for failure to start on time is loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole of stroke play. Otherwise, the penalty for breach of this Rule is disqualification.”

How did it happen?

Rory’s caddie (a cat named Mick) had a watch strapped to his wrist that was running four minutes slow. Player and caddie had the wrong time and apparently gauged their arrival on the first tee based on the group ahead of them.

The late-start penalty was an unwelcome surprise, a first on the PGA Tour for both Rory and his bag man.

Sabbatini took it in stride, chalking up the penalty to “one of those goofy moments.” He made bogey on the first hole, added the two, and marked down a triple. From there, he played 6-under to shoot a 3-under 70.

The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at

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Neil Sagebiel

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