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Bryson DeChambeau gets fortunate rules break, hits unfortunate follow-up shot that starts a crazy final-round slide

August 08, 2021

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Bryson DeChambeau and his old pal PGA Tour rules official Ken Tackett met again Sunday at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Only this time Tackett actually had some good news to deliver to DeChambeau.

DeChambeau had just hit an errant drive on the sixth hole at TPC Southwind, his ball finding the trees right of the fairway then tumbling across the cart path and nestled under a fence that demarked out of bounds. As he played a provisional from the tee, Tackett used a string to determine that DeChambeau’s ball was fractionally in bounds, even though it would be nearly impossible to advance from its position under the fence. Relief from the fence was not an option since it marked a course boundary (signifying out of bounds). But, because DeChambeau would be standing on the cart path when he tried to play a punch shot from over top of the fence, he was allowed relief due to the cart path itself under Rule 16.1(b).

A great break, all things considered. That is, until his next shot. Despite picking a flattering spot in his drop zone to help keep his shot underneath the overhanging trees, DeChambeau did, in fact, clip a tree, advancing the ball just a few yards.

From there, he hit a wedge to 25 feet and almost holed the putt for par, just because. In the end, it was an eventful bogey that dropped him two behind leader Harris English, who birdied the hole.

Afterward, Tackett was asked to explain the thought process for why DeChambeau was denied one form of relief but granted another.

"Well, it's because the players at this level, they're so good, he could have easily stood and played the golf ball from underneath the fence and advanced it probably a considerable way. In doing so, he was standing on the cart path, so he got relief from the cart path. Even though it doesn't seem obvious, it is something we see often where the players will play from the other side of the fence, you know, into the fairway often. So then he gets relief for the cart path. His nearest point of relief has to be complete relief and it has to be inbounds, so the only place that was was on the opposite side of the cart path. That's why his relief was not from the fence, his relief was from the cart path. That's why we went straight to the left side."

The sixth was a microcosm of DeChambeau's round, which included only three pars during a front-nine, two-under 33. At the turn, DeChambeau was just two behind English, seemingly still in the mix to win the title. But on the 10th hole he proceeded to hit his drive through the fairway into a water hazard en route to a bogey. And then on the tricky par-3 11th, after watching English hit his tee shot short into the water on the island-green hole, DeChambeau hit his tee shot over the green. It took a big hop and then landed in the water, setting up a double bogey. While English was struggling, too, it appears DeChambeau won't be the person to catch him on Sunday.

As for DeChambeau and Tackett, the duo are connected thanks to a few other rules questions that have surfaced in past tour events. You may recall Bryson's fire-ant incident, which also took place at this tournament in 2019. On the seventh hole at TPC Southwind during the first round, Tackett had to break the news to DeChambeau that the fire ants he said he saw near his ball did not constitute a “dangerous situation.”

Two weeks before that, Tackett, in a similar situation to their most recent meeting, ruled that DeChambeau’s ball was out of bounds on the 15th hole at Muirfield Village. He went on to make a quintuple-bogey 10 that day.

Luckily for him, only a bogey was in store for him today.