Hear the one about the major champions punished for playing from the wrong tee? Step forward Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson, who both made the bizarre error in the final round of the Hero World Challenge.
A shuffling of Sunday tee positions at Albany meant the 9th, a par five, was played in its shortest form of the week. The lengthened, par three 17th was to be played from what had earlier been the back tee position at the 9th. Spieth and Stenson, playing at the front of the 20-man field, strode from the 8th green to what was actually the 17th tee and battered drives down the 9th fairway. Before they could reach their balls, a referee pointed out the error; both players had to return and play three from the tee. Both spoke openly and in a self-effacing manner about the faux pas the round was completed.
Stenson takes up the story. “We kept our heads down off the finishing out on hole No8 and walked to the 9th tee box that we did on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,” said the Swede. “Put the ball down and hit some beautiful tee shots. Then when we went down to the hole, went down to the balls. The rules official said, ‘Did you hit off the right tee box?’ And we’re like, ‘Well, yeah...’ and then we looked back and we saw that there was another one forward and left. So obviously they switched things around and put 17 on the 9th tee box today and 9 was in a different place and we didn’t pay attention being first out and just motoring along. Yes, it was just go back and reload. It was only two shots each, so it wasn’t a big deal.”
Standing alongside his playing partner on the media podium, Spieth at this point was in spurts of laughter. “I think the frustrating part for us now is that every other group, they’re making sure to tell them, but for us they didn’t,” he said. “It obviously didn’t matter for us, which is fortunate I think for those [tournament] guys.”
Smiles soon returned. “My question to him was if we could just finish 19th and 20th and leave after 9, but that wasn’t an option,” said Stenson. Spieth again burst out laughing at this point. “Yes, he did,” said the Texan. “He asked if we could just head to the airport.”
Spieth explained a comedy of errors. “I teed it up first and it wasn’t my tee,” he added. “So Michael [Greller, his caddie] told me it’s not my tee. Then Henrik hit. Then I teed up too far in front and he told me too scoot back.”
Stenson at this point feared what had been portrayed as an easy mistake was reflecting badly. “You just spoiled the whole thing,” he said to Spieth. “Like, look at these guys; they don’t know who’s going to hit. Once they figured out who’s hitting, one guy’s trying to tee up in front and then they both hit from the wrong tee box. I guess we got what we deserved.
“Let’s just leave it that a little note on the tee box would have been helpful and I will make sure I tee it up on the right tee box in the future because I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. Have a nice Christmas everyone and we’ll see you in the new year.” Stenson delivered handshakes to assembled media and headed to the clubhouse.
In terms of the serious stuff, Collin Morikawa surprisingly blew the chance
to earn top spot in the world rankings after a closing round of 75. The
stumble of Morikawa, who started day four holding a five shot lead, allowed Viktor Hovland to prevail at Albany. Hovland’s 66 saw him win by one from Scottie Scheffler.