TV viewer's call hurts Azinger's hopes in tournament

Saturday, September 6, 2003

HAMILTON, Ontario -- Paul Azinger lost two strokes and a lofty spot on the Canadian Open leaderboard in the second television-related ruling of his career.

Azinger was penalized Friday after a TV viewer alerted PGA Tour officials that the veteran player's caddie, Ted Scott, removed the flagstick from the hole while playing partner Fred Funk's ball was still in motion on the 13th green -- barely moving about 2 feet past the cup after a chip.

"The rules of golf sometimes can be harsh," said Mike Shea, the tour's senior director of rules who also took part in a TV-related ruling involving Azinger in 1991 at Doral. "Paul handled it very well. He took his medicine like a man."

The ruling left Azinger with a 2-under 68, putting him three strokes behind leader Charles Howell III after the second round. Azinger was found to be in breach of Rule 17-2b for "unauthorized attendance" of the flagstick.

"It's clear in black and white," Azinger said during ESPN's broadcast. "I understand that, but common sense ...

"You just kind of grin and bear it. I've got two more days to play and maybe it will inspire me to do better. It's just one of those things."

In the 1991 tournament at Doral, Azinger inadvertently moved a rock taking a stance in a hazard. A day later, a viewer called officials, and a video review showed that Azinger violated the rules. Because Azinger did not include a two-stroke penalty in the round, he was disqualified for signing an incorrect card.

"None of us knew what happened. We had no idea," said Funk, two strokes back after a 68. "I can't imagine sitting at home and seeing something and saying, 'Got to call it in,' especially something like that."

Howell, seeking his second victory in three full seasons on the PGA Tour, shot a 68 on the historic Hamilton Golf and Country Club course to take a one-stroke lead over Tom Byrum (69) and Japanese players Kenichi Kuboya (67) and Hidemichi Tanaka (70).

LPGA Tour

Karrie Webb shot a 5-under par 65 for a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic in Tulsa, Okla.

Webb finished a stroke ahead of Donna Andrews and four strokes ahead of defending champion Annika Sorenstam at the Tulsa Country Club. Tammie Green was third with a 3-under 67.

Champions Tour

Gil Morgan closed with a pair of birdies for a 7-under 65 Friday to take a one-stroke lead over Larry Nelson, Jerry McGee and Bruce Summerhays in the first round of the Kroger Classic in Maineville, Ohio.

Nelson missed a chance to tie for the lead when his 30-foot birdie putt burned the edge of the cup on 18. He already had the 553-yard, par-5 eighth, as did Jim Thorpe, who was alone in fifth at 67.

Seven players were tied at 68.

Altogether, 48 players in the 81-golfer field shot better than par 72 over the 7,064-yard Tournament Players Course, where the "lift, clean, replace" rule was in effect because of heavy rains earlier this week.

Last year, with hard fairways and greens, 37 players broke par the first day.

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