Relatively unknown Aussie golfer Rod Pampling authored one of the great highlights in major championship history late Friday night. With the sun down and play about to be suspended for the day, Pampling rushed to the 9th tee, his last hole of the day, and hastily duffed a tee shot with a running Happy Gilmore-esque swing.
Unfortunately for Pampling, but fortunately for all of us and golf history, the TNT/CBS production crew had a TrackMan device set up on the tee box. So what would have otherwise just been some clip of a hasty swing became art.
Without TrackMan, there would have been no way to see the ball at that point. But now we could actually track it, and get some statistics about its flight. And it was glorious, with an apex of … 13 feet!
So why, why, why did he do this?
Pampling went to extreme measures, perhaps the most extreme we’ve ever seen, to ensure he could finish his round and not have to come back to the course Saturday morning.
After an almost two-hour rain delay in the afternoon, it was clear that the second round was not going to finish before dark Friday night. There are 156 players in the field and navigating them through 36 holes from sun-up to sun-down over the first two rounds of the PGA can be a challenge with little margin for error or delay.
But unlike a stoppage of play for lightning and dangerous weather, when you have to mark your ball and stop immediately on the spot, the horn stopping play for darkness gives you a little wiggle room before coming in from the course. The rule: you and your entire group have the option to finish the hole you’re on when the horn blows. And if one player in the group — twosomes or threesomes — tees off on a hole, that counts as starting a hole and you have the cushion, within the rules, to keep playing and finish up that hole.
Pampling was miles on the wrong side of the cut line, so his PGA Championship was over no matter what happened on the final hole. The same could be said for his playing partners, Thomas Pieters and Xander Schauffele. So the last thing they wanted to do was get caught on their 17th hole with the horn blowing. They would not get home until close to 10 o’clock, have to get up around 5 a.m. to come back to the course, warm up, and restart to play one hole. They were going home anyways — let’s just get it wrapped up on Friday night.
So Pampling ran ahead, didn’t even think twice, and yanked one right into the trees and some temporary fencing. You can see J.B. Holmes in the clip above in a green shirt, just off to the right side of the tee. Holmes was in the group ahead, which was in a similar race and had Danny Willett, also missing the cut, run ahead and hit a less-than-seriously-competitive shot to officially “start the hole.”
With Holmes right there off the tee, and his partners in the fairway, that’s also probably why Pampling went for a quick rocket into the trees — he didn’t want to even come close to hitting into anyone, too.
While obviously not playing his best golf this week, Pampling has become a a cult hero for this act. The tracer and 13-foot apex is now invaluable artwork, and he seemed to take the ignominy of it all happening on TV in stride with some humor.