Rules Corner: DeChambeau's Dilemma June 17, 2016 By Joe Foley, USGA


After a frustrating double bogey on No. 18 to finish his first nine of the U.S. Open Thursday at Oakmont Country Club, Bryson DeChambeau ran into some more trouble. The 2015 U.S. Amateur champion struck his next tee shot toward the boundary to the right of the fairway on the first hole, his 10th of the day. His ball landed on the cart path and bounded into the trees; spectators nearby believed that the ball came to rest out of bounds.

After a brief conversation with his caddie and the referee, DeChambeau elected to play a provisional ball under Rule 27-2, in case the spectators were indeed correct. DeChambeau hooked his provisional ball well left of the fairway on the 481-yard par 4 into thick rough.

Minutes later, DeChambeau arrived to the area where his original ball landed and found it in bounds. He now had the option of playing his original ball if desired. There was one small problem: his original ball was buried beneath thick branches.

This predicament led DeChambeau to deem his ball unplayable. According to Rule 28, DeChambeau had three options, all under penalty of one stroke:

a.     Proceed under the stroke-and-distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as near as possible to the spot from which the original ball was last played; or

b.    Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c.     Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

Rule 28b and 28c were not feasible for DeChambeau – if he proceeded under either of those options he would have likely found himself in the same area of thick brush after a drop. While Rule 28a required him to play another ball from the tee, it was DeChambeau’s best chance for recovery. DeChambeau chose that option and returned to the teeing ground.

You may be curious about DeChambeau’s provisional ball that had come to rest in the deep rough – why wasn’t he required to play it instead of returning to the tee? Did he have the option of playing it?

Under Rule 27-2c, DeChambeau was not required or permitted to play the provisional ball. A provisional ball may only be played when a ball is lost or out of bounds – essentially serving as a time-saving procedure in the event a player is required to play under penalty of stroke and distance. Since DeChambeau’s original ball was found in play, his provisional ball had to be abandoned, because the need to play the provisional ball no longer existed.

DeChambeau improved on his first two drives, striking his next shot from the tee into the middle of the fairway. This was his third stroke on the hole after his first had come to rest in the trees and his second was the penalty stroke incurred through the use of the stroke-and-distance option under Rule 28a (the stroke made with the provisional ball does not count in his score for the hole). DeChambeau ultimately salvaged a double bogey on the hole, and finished the first round with a 1-over-par 71.

The Rules of Golf