PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Brian Harman, the first alternate, made his debut in The Players Championship and shot 73. It was a round he won't easily forget, for reasons not the least bit related to his score.
In a bizarre situation that no one could recall happening before, Harman was assigned a separate tee time and had to play as a single Thursday because he could not be found when D.A. Points abruptly withdrew on the first tee because of back spasms.
Ordinarily, the alternate would not get in if he were not around. But this was no ordinary case.
Points, whose back was bothering him on the range, was announced on the tee when he took a few practice swings and realized he couldn't make it. Harman, who had been on the practice range all morning, said he called officials and told them he would be in the clubhouse. He was playing ping pong with his caddie when they called.
By then, it was too late.
Carl Pettersson had already teed off. Points told the starter he couldn't go, and Robert Garrigus was announced and hit the next shot.
"It happened very quickly," rules official Mark Russell said. "We didn't have time to react. But once we were able to sit down and get our heads around this, figure out exactly what the situation is, we decided Brian Harman had done everything we asked him to do."
Garrigus said he looked back toward the tee, expecting to see Harman. Even after hitting his second shots toward the green, he figured Harman would be joining them. But they completed the first hole, and they were on their way.
"It got botched by everybody," Garrigus said, though he said it was the right decision to let Harman play.
Alternates typically know the players who might have to withdraw. Harman said he knew of a few, but Points was not one of them.
"I saw him on the range and he looked fine," Harman said.
Most players will let the alternate know if there's a chance they can't play so the alternate can be ready. Points, however, did pull out before hitting a tee shot and thus did not keep the alternate from playing.
Garrigus said it was a long day as a twosome playing in a field of threesomes, which wasn't easy. Harman said it was so quiet out there it felt like a practice round.
For Russell, it was the second straight decision he had never made before. At the Wells Fargo Championship last week, Tiger Woods lost a ball on the fifth hole of the second round and it was never found. He was not penalized because some in the gallery said a fan had taken his golf ball.
And now this.
"In my 31 years on the golf tour, I can never remember a player withdrawing right before he's supposed to play," Russell said.
Harman originally was supposed to be first out Friday morning as a single. But when Paul Casey withdrew Thursday, he agreed to take his spot in that threesome.
WILD DAY: Sunghoon Kang was distraught after opening with a 75 — not because of the score, but how he got it.
He opened with a quadruple-bogey 8, going long of the green into an area of bushes and taking a couple of hacks to try to free his ball. Ten holes later, Kang was 1-under par. But he finished with four 5s on his card, including a ball in the water on the island-green 17th hole for a double bogey.
"I'm right back to where I was after the first hole," he said to his caddie, Steve Hulka, as he walked in the tunnel of the clubhouse.
Not quite, but point taken.
It was an amazing comeback from an 8, and it was helped by an unusual pep talk from Hulka.
"We walked off the green and Steve said, 'There's a big elephant, and we're going to eat it one bit at a time,'" Kang said.
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