Golf: Rare air swing as veteran Aussie John Senden's driver snaps, stroke counted even though no contact with ball

John Senden plays an iron during play on the first day of the Pro-Am of the Australian PGA Championships at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, Australia, on Nov 29, 2018.
John Senden plays an iron during play on the first day of the Pro-Am of the Australian PGA Championships at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, Australia, on Nov 29, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA (AFP, REUTERS) - Golfer John Senden’s driver snapped on his downswing and he missed the ball in a freak air shot. But the incident sparked controversy at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast on Thursday (Nov 29).

The veteran Australian was two under through eight holes at the Royal Pines Resort when he lined up at the tee and pulled the driver above his head, only for the shaft to snap near the grip as he brought it down towards the ball.

He was left off balance – and dumbfounded. Not because the club had broken, but because the air swing still counted as a shot.

Lacking another driver in his bag, he removed the tee and hit his second shot with an iron before going on to bogey the ninth hole.

Many fans were also baffled.

“For it to count as a strike, doesn’t there have to be an intent?” asked one Twitter user. “Couldn’t he argue that there was no intention to strike the ball once the grip broke in his backswing?”

Senden also argued – unsuccessfully – with officials, insisting that he had tried to pull out of the shot. 

He was backed by playing partner Geoff Ogilvy, who claimed the ruling “made no sense”.

“He had to play the next shot from a high tee, I didn’t understand that,” he told Golf Australia Magazine. 

The 47-year-old was, however, sanguine about the incident, telling news website www.stuff.co.nz: “Unfortunately, that counts as one stroke. I’ve seen it happen before to other players, but first time it’s happened to me in a tournament...

“There’s no exception, it’s just the rule, you can’t argue against the rule.

“When you intend to hit a shot and you don’t hit it, it’s one stroke, that’s the way it goes.” 

In a tweeted response, Golf Australia said: “This was the discussion just had between John and a rules official on the 11th tee... the incident will be reviewed following the round.”

Senden ended with an even-par 72, six behind fellow Australians and leading pair Jake McLeod and Matt Jager. World No. 21 Mark Leishman was two off the pace after shooting a 68.