Madalitso Muthiya isn’t a household name in golf circles, but he made some headlines on Saturday at the South African Open for the wrong reasons.
Outdueling a leaderboard full of the best players the host nation had to offer — major champions Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel — Muthiya, a 35-year-old from Zambia, found himself with the lead on the fifth hole of his third round.
Playing the par-3 at the Firethorn Course at Randpark Golf Club, Muthiya’s tee shot came to rest in a precarious position just off the putting surface. With his ball up against the different cuts of grass, Muthiya elected to try to bump his second shot near the hole with a fairway wood.
Unfortunately, his ball had settled into a depression in the earth and the ball popped up at first contact, leading to a double-hit as Muthiya continued his follow through.
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The result was a one-stroke penalty, which led to a double bogey for Muthiya, dropping him from the lead. He would eventually shoot a third-round 71.
“I’ve double-hit it before but not with a wood,” Muthiya said. “I didn’t even see that there was a hole in front of my ball, I was so fixated on trying to make the shot.
“I guess things like that happen and you just have to take it in your stride and put it behind you.”
To add insult to injury, had Muthiya done the exact same thing in three weeks, there would have been no penalty. The elimination of the double-hit penalty will be removed under the Modernized Rules of Golf that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
“Where a double hit occurs as part of a single stroke and was not the intention of the player, it was felt unfair and unnecessary for the player to be penalized,” the USGA and R&A explained. “Just as there is no penalty if a player’s ball accidentally deflects off his or her body, equipment or caddie, there is no need for a penalty when a player accidentally strikes his or her own ball in making a stroke. Accidental deflections are, by definition, an accident.
“When a player’s club accidentally strikes his or her ball multiple times it usually results in the ball going somewhere that the player did not intend for it to go. The outcome in such cases is random and unpredictable, and it results in a disadvantage for the player as often as it results in an advantage.”
Unlike the likely double-hit Tiger Woods had last week at the Hero World Challenge, Muthiya’s infraction was clear to the naked eye — and the second hit can be heard in the clip — therefore resulting in the penalty.