Most of us wouldn’t be seen for dust after having been penalised 10 strokes as Hensby had been post his opening round in South Carolina.
Hensby was competing in just a second PGA Tour event in three and a half years and was progressing well through eight holes of Round one until he noticed something askew on his golf ball. It was a small dot on his Titleist ProV1 he hadn’t seen before.
After rebounding from an early triple bogey with birdies on each of the front nine par-3s, he had just made a par on the eighth hole and was 2 over when he noticed the discrepancy.
“I asked my caddie, ‘Hey what’s this dot on the ball? I’ve never noticed this before; did they do something with the new pro V1?’” Hensby told PGATOUR.COM. “And he didn’t know, so I asked my playing partners and they were like, ‘That’s a low spin ball.’ Now I don’t use this ball, so there was a lot of confusion where it came from – none of my others had the dot – but we knew I had played the wrong ball.”
The 49-year-old Australian, who before February’s Puerto Rico Open hadn’t played since the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship, called in Senior Tournament Referee Mike Peterson and was assessed a two-stroke penalty for each hole in which he used the ball under the Model Local Rule G-4 – sometimes known as the One Ball Rule.
Hensby had unknowingly dropped the ball into play after hitting his third shot into the water at the fourth hole, meaning his bogey-birdie-par-birdie-par run became a triple bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey-double bogey annihilation, pushing him to 12 over. Despite being rattled by the news, he shot a respectable 1-over 36 on the back, leaving him with a 13-over 84.
While unaware at the time, Hensby would later find out the ball in question belonged to Pat Perez and had been inadvertently switched while the two warmed up on the putting green.
“Somehow I picked up one of Pat’s balls and he ended up with one of mine,” he said. “I only found this out because Titleist wanted to get to the bottom of it. I thought they had the wrong ball in the sleeve that I had.
“If you look at both balls it’s hard to know the difference,” he continued. “It’s not like one is black and one is red. They’re both black, but one has a small dot on it and one doesn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that. I’m glad he didn’t use mine.”
Prior to rule changes in 2019, this type of infraction carried a maximum penalty of four strokes but now is two-shots per hole. The purpose of the rule is to prevent a player from using balls with different playing characteristics depending on the nature of the hole or shot to be played.
Russell Henley unknowingly violated the One Ball Rule in the second round at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in 2019. He realized the infraction while signing autographs after the round, and after adding eight shots to his score went from being in contention to missing the cut.
Similarly, Hensby had no chance to play on the weekend after the violation.
“For Mark to call that on himself speaks volumes about him and the integrity of the game,” PGA TOUR Senior Tournament Director Ken Tackett said.
The 2004 John Deere Classic winner was a late call up off the alternate list.
“I only got into the field on Tuesday,” Hensby said, “and I’d driven a moving truck from Scottsdale to San Antonio 14 hours straight on Sunday so I was a little stiff. I flew in on Wednesday night, had to COVID test prior to my tee time, and there was a chance if the results were delayed, I’d be playing as a single at the back of the pack but thankfully those came through.
“I was actually playing pretty decently,” he added. “I didn’t get off to the greatest start, but I birdied the par 3’s during that stretch and made some good pars. I was just 2 over at that point and feeling pretty good about my rebound. But after I got the penalty obviously it was tough from that point on, and it was a shame because I knew my tournament was over.”
Hensby turns 50 on June 29 and as such has been looking to sharpen his game for PGA Tour Champions, where he hopes to play alongside fellow Australians of his generation like Rod Pampling, John Senden, Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby. Hensby has qualified for the Senior U.S. Open at the Omaha Country Club, July 7-11.
“I’m working hard to get my game back up there,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the Senior U.S. Open and the Senior British Open and hopefully getting status on PGA Tour Champions so I can get some more regular playing time again.”