JT, Rory, and the Trees February 28, 2018 By Jamie Wallace, USGA

Justin Thomas' march to victory at the Honda Classic included an interesting scenario during his opening round. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

At the Honda Classic Feb. 22-25, Rory McIlroy and eventual champion Justin Thomas both had interesting encounters with trees on the par-4 sixth hole of the Champion course at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. On Thursday, Thomas hit his drive to the right of the fairway, near a large tree limb. The limb was on the line on which he wanted to hit a pitch back out to the fairway. While the limb was still lodged in the tree, it happened to be fully detached from the trunk, which made it a loose impediment under the Rules of Golf. Any natural object that is not solidly embedded and is no longer fixed or growing is classified as a loose impediment. Some common examples include leaves, twigs, pine cones, pine needles, acorns and stones. These loose, natural objects can be removed anywhere on the golf course except when they lie in the same bunker or water hazard as your ball.


Justin Thomas Tree Removal, LLC.

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Luckily for Thomas, there is no size limit on what is considered a loose impediment. So while it might have looked a little strange, the large limb in his path could simply be picked up and moved out of his way. Despite the successful removal of the limb, Thomas would go on to make a bogey on the hole.

On the same hole during the third round on Saturday, McIlroy’s second shot ended up deep inside a large bush with very low-hanging branches. McIlroy was of course allowed to play this ball, assuming he was able to find a way to do so. However, there are a few things he needed to consider. First, he needed to take his stance and prepare for his stroke in the least intrusive way possible. This means that he was not able to break or bend any branches out of his way to make improvements to the area where he would make his stroke. He also made very careful practice swings so that he did not accidentally knock down any branches that might have improved the area of his intended swing. Second, he was not able to “build a stance” when preparing for his stroke. Even though it may have been wet underneath that bush, he was not able to kneel on a towel or anything similar to keep his pants dry.

🌳🌳🌳 🌳🏌️‍♂️🌳 🌳🌳🌳

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McIlroy followed all of the relevant Rules in this circumstance and played his ball out from underneath the bush. However, he still ended up making a double bogey-6 on the hole, part of a tough week for the 2011 U.S. Open champion.

While Thomas’s and McIlroy’s situations on the sixth hole might have been different, both players did an excellent job of playing by the Rules.

Jamie Wallace is the manager of Rules education and digital content for the USGA. Email him at jwallace@usga.org.

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