Sergio Garcia and Shattered Tee Markers
At the fourth tee of the final round of the U.S. Open, Sergio Garcia hit a wayward tee shot. In a moment of frustration he slammed his club down onto one of the tee markers and split it in half.
Would this be a Rules violation?
It’s very important that tee markers remain in the same place throughout a round to ensure the competitors are playing the exact same course. In fact, when USGA officials set them at the U.S. Open they apply a small mark of white paint to identify the spot where the tee has been placed for the day. As it turns out, this helped with the Sergio situation. Officials were able to quickly replace the broken tee marker with a new one and put it on the exact same spot without a problem.
In answering the question regarding Sergio and the Rules, the Tee Marker Rule will be our reference. Tee markers have varying status depending on whether or not you have played a stroke from within the tee. Prior to hitting your tee shot, the tee markers are deemed to be fixed. After you hit from the teeing ground, the markers are deemed to be movable obstructions.
We have a great Decision covering varying situations regarding tee markers during a round and before and after you have made a stroke from the tee:
11-2/2 Tee-Marker Moved by Player
Rule 11-2 states that before a player plays his first stroke with any ball from the teeing ground, the tee-markers are deemed to be fixed. Thereafter, Decision 11-2/1 clarifies that they are obstructions and if movable, may be moved (see Definition of "Obstruction").
In view of the fact that tee-markers are initially fixed, and when moved can have a significant effect on the competition, the following are examples of the appropriate ruling in various circumstances. In all cases a moved tee-marker should be replaced. In some cases, the replacement of the tee-marker may affect the penalty to the player.
(a) A player moves a tee-marker before playing his first stroke with any ball from the teeing ground because the tee-marker interferes with the lie of the ball, his stance or his area of intended swing — loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play for breach of Rule 13-2.
(b) A player moves a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground because, in his view, the tee-markers are too close together, too far back, aimed in the wrong direction or
some similar reason — disqualification under Rule 33-7, unless
the tee-marker is replaced before the player or any other player plays from the teeing ground, in which case the penalty is modified to loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.
(c) A player moves a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground as a result of falling over the marker — no penalty and the tee-marker should be replaced.
(d) A player moves a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground as a result of intentionally kicking it or striking it with a club — no penalty and the tee-marker should be replaced.
(e) A player lifts a tee-marker before or after playing a stroke from the teeing ground for no apparent reason and without authority under the Rules — no penalty and the tee-marker should be replaced.
Part D answers our Sergio situation; he had already made a stroke prior to moving and breaking the tee marker. So the Spaniard incurred no penalty.