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Nov 14th, 2020

Might DeChambeau have received a free drop?

Big hitter's request was not as crazy as it might seem

Poor old Bryson Dechambeau. With the weight of expectation hanging heavy on him not helped by his pre-tournament comments, the big-hitting man from California caught an awful piece of luck. Dechambeau birdied the 2nd hole to move to three under par for the tournament when lady luck deserted him.

Sticking to his aggressive game plan, Bryson pulled out a driver on the 350-yard par four 3rd hole. The ball boomed off the tee and headed slightly left pitching in the rough just short and left of the green. It would be the last time Dechambeau saw that ball.
A frantic search ensued in what is now known to be the wrong area. Due to the torrential rains of Thursday and the fact the ball had hurtled to ground with snow on it the ball had plugged in the thick wet rough just ten feet off the fairway.
The ball was found by a steward totally plugged and only visible to someone directly standing over it.
Sadly, it was too late for the US Open champion. His second drive was a repeat of his first but the ball stayed in view in a muddy lie: the result a triple-bogey seven and probably the end of Dechambeau’s Masters.

A forlorn Dechambeau questioned the rules official as the nightmare scenario played out before his eyes. As the search continued, DeChambeau suggested it might be ‘ground under repair’ and knowing the ball was in that area might he get a free drop. The Californian enquiry fell on deaf ears but should it have?
The rule Bryson was hoping might apply, Rule 16.1 (e) states
Relief for Ball Not Found but in or on Abnormal Course Condition
If a player’s ball has not been found and it is known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition on the course, the player may use this relief option instead of taking stroke-and-distance relief:
The player may take relief under Rule 16.1b, c or d, using the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the abnormal course condition on the course as the spot of the ball for purposes of finding the nearest point of complete relief.
  • Once the player puts another ball in play to take relief in this way:
  • The original ball is no longer in play and must not be played.
  • This is true even if it is then found on the course before the end of the three-minute search time (see Rule 6.3b).
But if it is not known or virtually certain that the ball came to rest in or on an abnormal course condition and the ball is lost, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2.

‘Abnormal Course Condition’ is defined as any of these four defined conditions:
  • Animal Hole,
  • Ground Under Repair,
  • Immovable Obstruction, or
  • Temporary Water.
The first three conditions do not apply but it interesting to look at the definition of ‘Temporary Water’ rather than Bryson's suggestion of ground under repair.
Temporary Water
Any temporary accumulation of water on the surface of the ground (such as puddles from rain or irrigation or an overflow from a body of water) that:
  • Is not in a penalty area, and
  • Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance (without pressing down excessively with his or her feet).
It is not enough for the ground to be merely wet, muddy or soft or for the water to be momentarily visible as the player steps on the ground; an accumulation of water must remain present either before or after the stance is taken.
Had Bryson taken a stance and water were visible then it would have been a free drop provided that all present agreed that the ball was clearly lost in the area he was standing.
Maybe it was just very muddy and there was no surface water but crazier rulings have been given in the past. Remember that loose impediment boulder and those millions of loose impediments in a waste area!

TAGS: Rules Of Golf, Bryson DeChambeau, The Masters, 2020

And another thing...