Zurich Classic

Billy Horschel, Sam Burns break down 16th hole penalty drop at TPC Louisiana

Two shots back of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele with three holes to play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the team of Sam Burns and Billy Horschel decided to get aggressive on the drivable par-4 16th at TPC Louisiana. The reward of trying to convert a potential eagle putt was worth the risk of possibly hitting it into the water guarding the front and left side of the green on the 299-yard hole.

When Burns tugged his drive into said water, it created another decision of sorts: Where exactly did the ball cross into the penalty area?

A discussion ensued between Horschel, Burns, Jason Day (who was playing with Jason Scrivener in the same pairing) and an on-site rules official. Horschel believed that the ball hit the bank before bounding left into the water, which TV replay confirmed. The question, though, was whether the ball hit outside the red line marking the penalty area, in which case Burns and Horschel could take their drop beside the green, roughly 30 feet from the hole? Or did it land inside the red line, in which case Burns and Horschel would have to take a drop farther back toward the fairway, at least 50 yards from the green?

The PGA Tour posted a video of the discussion on Twitter.

As you can hear, Horschel did not see precisely where the ball landed but felt that the ball likely hit outside the red line because he believed that he would not otherwise have been able to see the ball bounce from the tee box given the elevation difference from the teeing area. Day said he didn’t see the ball splash but didn’t pay attention to where the ball crossed.

Unfortunately, the angle of the TV replay did not show specifically where the ball landed, either. Because of that, in consultation with head rules official Gary Young, it was determined that given the information Horschel and Burns had and using their reasonable judgement, they could drop beside the green as if the ball did bounce outside the red line.

From there, Horschel played his third shot to two feet of the hole and Burns rolled in the par putt.

Still within two shots of the leaders, Horschel had the tee on the par-3 17th but proceeded to overcook it. He and Burns wound up making bogey on the hole to fall three shots back, essentially ending their bid at victory.

After the round, Horschel and Burns, who finished the day with a four-under 68, talked more about what happened.

“So, from where we were, Sam pulled his drive a little bit and it was coming back,” Horschel said. “Conversation was did it land above the red line? Well, I saw a ball land and bounce. From the tee box and everything, you really can't see the red line.”

“The ball was six inches into the water,” Burns interjected. “If it lands close to the edge, it's going to kick pretty hard in, but if it lands higher up it's going to kind of …”

Horschel then continued: “It's going to take a couple bounces. From what I saw and not being able to see the red line and where the red line was, I couldn't see below that from the tee box when I got up there, so I figured that ball had to land up on top of the red line. We asked TV and everything, and TV didn't have clear-cut evidence. Travis, [Burns’] caddie, saw the ball bounce.

“I'm one to play it safe, but I was pretty confident that ball landed above the red line.”