Luckily for Charles Howell III he came into the Wyndham Championship ranked 23rd in the FedEx Cup standings. He fired two solid rounds to open the tournament at Sedgefield Country Club, but he won’t be around to play on Sunday despite shooting a 66 in the first round and a 68 over his second 18. He didn’t get an opportunity to play the third round because he was disqualified before he even teed off on Saturday for using a non-conforming driver on the previous day.
The problem arose when Howell was warming up before the second round. The toe-cap on the bottom of his driver came off while he was on the range. Under that cap is a hole where hot wax can be placed to add weight to the club. Without that cover, the driver was considered non-conforming.
“What that little port cover coming off did was made the club non-conforming,” PGA Tour rules official Tony Wallin said. “… You cannot have a hole that’s uncovered into the club or going through the club.”
For his part, Howell contends that he checked with the club’s manufacturer, TaylorMade, to ensure that the club would still be within the rules before he made the decision to keep it in his bag for the second round. “The idea that the club would no longer be conforming, because of the missing toe-cap, never entered my mind,” Howell said. “This driver will be back in play next week.”
While this is certainly a strange circumstance, it’s definitely not the first time a golfer has been disqualified in recent weeks for using improper equipment. I just find it mind-boggling that a professional athlete would even take a chance like this when so much is at stake. It wouldn’t have been difficult for Howell to reach out to an actual rules official before his round. If he had done so, Howell would have been advised that the club did not conform to the rules. And if the rules official had told him otherwise, Howell would have had a leg to stand on in his appeal.
As it stands now, Howell is still in good shape for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but he almost certainly missed out on a nice payday this week.