Turns out that was the least of their problems on the ninth hole Sunday at the Hero World Challenge. They were playing from the 17th tee.
To spice up the final round at Albany, the PGA Tour moved the tee box forward on the par-5 ninth hole to allow more players a chance to reach the green in two. They used the original ninth tee for the par-3 17th so the hole would play a little shorter and over the water.
Both tee boxes had a large white sign indicating the hole. Spieth and Stenson didn’t notice.
“We kept our heads down off the finishing out on hole No. 8 and walked to the 9 tee box that we did on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and put the ball down and hit some beautiful tee shots,” Stenson said. “Then when we went down to the balls, the rules official said, ‘Did you hit off the right tee box?'”
In one respect, they were lucky. Had they finished out the hole without correcting the error, they would have been disqualified. They returned to the right tee, played the hole and added a 2-shot penalty. Stenson made a 7, Spieth an 8.
In another respect, they were unlucky.
“My question was if we could just finish 19th and 20th [place] and leave after nine,” Stenson said. “But that wasn’t an option either.”
Spieth had a double bogey and a triple bogey on the back nine, along with four birdies, for a 76 to finish last place. Stenson shot 72 and was second to last.
Spieth said there was a notice when they checked in to start the round about new yardages for the two holes. He said he wished there had been a little bit more clarity that tee boxes were changing.
“I actually didn’t think we were going to get penalized because it’s a charity event, but then I realized there’s world ranking involved and all that,” Spieth said. “I think the frustrating part for us now is that every other group … they’re making sure to tell them, but for us they didn’t. It obviously didn’t matter for us, which is fortunate I think for those guys.”