Rules Junkie: Penalty Costs Am A U.S. Open Berth

At U.S. Open qualifying, strokes are precious commodities. One to the better or worse can mean the difference between teeing it up at Oakmont Country Club or watching the tournament from your couch. For high school junior Won Jun Lee, a two-stroke penalty was the difference between making it through sectional qualifying. 

After hitting his approach over the back of the par-4 11th green, Lee violated Rule 13-2, Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play.

Rule 13-2 states, in part, “A player must not improve or allow to be improved the position or lie of his ball, his line of play or a reasonable extension of that line beyond the hole by pressing a club on the ground, creating or eliminating irregularities of surface or removing or pressing down sand, loose soil, replaced divots or other cut turf placed in position.”

Because Lee’s ball was off of the green, as was the pitch mark he patted down, playing partner Tim Wilkinson called a penalty on him. Were the pitch mark that Lee fixed on the green, there would be no penalty assessed. 

As it turned out, Lee played the rest of his round in 3-under par to post 5-under par. 6-under par would have been good enough for a playoff and the 7-under par that he would have shot without the penalty would have been enough to put him through to the Open.

Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie or email your question to and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.

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