Graeme McDowell penalized 2 shots

Updated: September 6, 2012, 8:10 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

CARMEL, Ind. -- Graeme McDowell walked off the Crooked Stick course on Thursday feeling pretty good about his eagle-birdie finish at the BMW Championship.

He walked out of the scoring trailer moments later not in as good of a mood.

McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, was the victim of golf's precarious rules, incurring a two-stroke penalty on his final hole (the par-5 ninth) because he grazed a leaf while addressing his ball in a bunker.

It is the same rule that snagged Carl Pettersson during the final round of the PGA Championship last month.

"It's a very unusual situation when I've got a small branch behind my ball with a leaf attached to it, and in the process of addressing my golf ball, I grazed the top of the leaf," McDowell said. "I'm deemed to have touched a loose impediment in a hazard, which is a two-shot penalty.

"Despite the fact that nothing moved, the lie hasn't improved, I just didn't give the branch enough respect. I've never seen that scenario before."

It happened to Pettersson on the first hole of the final round during the PGA at Kiawah, where he was in contention. During his backswing, with his ball in a hazard, he moved a leaf, putting him in violation of Rule 13-4c. Technically, he moved a loose impediment in a hazard.

The penalty cost Pettersson two shots and was the difference between him finishing second behind Rory McIlroy and tied for third.

McDowell had just holed a fairway shot for an eagle at the par-4 eight hole Thursday, then hit his second shot into a bunker at the ninth. He blasted out and made the putt for what he thought was a birdie and a 6-under 66.

"Getting into that bunker, my caddie (Ken Comboy) said to me, 'You know you can't touch that branch, right?' " McDowell said. "I thought he meant of course I can't remove that branch. I just didn't give it enough respect, and the second that I grazed it, we both knew perhaps we might be in trouble.

"It was just one of those moments where I've never seen that scenario before. It's a tough lesson."

Instead of a 66, McDowell consulted with officials in the scoring tent and signed for a 68. He is four strokes behind tournament leaders McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Bo Van Pelt and Graham DeLaet.

McDowell was involved in another rules situation earlier this year at a different tournament sponsored by BMW, the European Tour's flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth.

His drive on the final hole of the first round came to rest on a bed of leaves. While trying to get to his ball to identify it, from a distance of 10 feet away, McDowell was deemed to have made the ball move while stepping on leaves.

The ball barely moved, but it was phoned in by a television viewer, and after McDowell and officials reviewed, it was determined he was in violation. McDowell was penalized one stroke because the ball moved -- and another because he did not move it back.

"The rules are there for everyone's protection," McDowell said. "But it's a harsh one."

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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