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Original Issue


CONSIDER IT a variation of Murphy's Law: When you try to do the
right thing, you can be sure you'll do the wrong thing. That's
what Hale Irwin learned at last week's Senior Tour Championship.
Irwin, who won twice in 12 starts as a rookie on the Senior
circuit, was cruising through the third round at two under par,
in second place behind leader Jim Colbert, when he crashed and
burned--and didn't even know it. A strange sequence of events on
the 16th green, exacerbated by one of the more arcane rules of
golf, led to the assessment of a rare double penalty against
Irwin and the loss of a staggering four strokes. Within the
space of about a minute last Saturday, he went from minus two to
plus two and out of contention.

This was the scene: The approach shots of Irwin and Jim Dent,
Irwin's playing partner along with Larry Gilbert, wound up just
inches apart on the green of the 365-yard, par-4 16th. Both
balls were about 35 feet from the hole, but Irwin was away. Dent
marked his ball with a penny. Irwin marked with a quarter. Irwin
handed his ball to John Sullivan, his caddie, who routinely
cleaned the ball, then put it down next to what he thought was
Irwin's mark. But he placed it behind Dent's penny, not Irwin's
quarter. A difference of 24 cents was about to cost $20,000.

Irwin proceeded to rotate his ball, pick up Dent's mark and putt
from the wrong spot. He missed. When Dent approached what he
thought was his mark, he realized that Irwin had putted from the
wrong place. At that point Irwin had only incurred a two-stroke
penalty for having played from a wrong place, according to Rule
20-7b of the rules of golf. But what happened next seems, in
retrospect, both mystifying and ridiculous. Instead of calling
in a rules official, Irwin picked up his ball without putting
out and placed it on its original, correct mark, eventually
holing out for what he thought was a double-bogey. After
finishing his round, Irwin learned otherwise. What had been a
rather unpleasant 6 was in reality a nightmarish 8.

Irwin had committed a second violation when he picked up his
ball after playing from Dent's mark. According to Rule 20-1,
Irwin incurred penalty stroke number three for not marking his
ball while it was in play. The final insult, and the fourth
penalty stroke, was automatically added when he did not then
replace his ball on the spot where it had come to rest after his
first putt. In other words, if Irwin had simply holed out after
realizing he had played from the wrong mark, he would have
incurred only the original two-stroke penalty, but because he
attempted to rectify his mistake while his ball was still in
play, he suffered the full wrath of the rules. Bryan Naugle, the
Senior tour official whose job it was to inform Irwin of the
additional two-stroke penalty, said, "As far as I know, this has
never happened before."

"In an effort to do the right thing," Irwin said, "I did the
wrong thing." And instead of finishing at least third, he wound
up tied for eighth, at one over. "I have to learn from it,"
Irwin said. "I just hate to be the example for a million people
on TV."


COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINIrwin was slapped with a rare four-stroke penalty. [Hale Irwin]