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Rules of Golf

Emiliano Grillo could have hit a moving ball and other crazy things we learned from his bizarre rules incident

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Jonathan Bachman

We admit to being guilty from time to time of overusing the terms “bizarre” and “rules incident” in a same sentence. But we’re not entirely sure how to more aptly characterize what happened to Emiliano Grillo on the 72nd hole of the Charles Schwab Challenge than as, well, a “bizarre rules incident.”

It all becomes more, ahem, bizarre thanks to the fact that Grillo overcame the double-bogey 6 he would make on the 72nd hole to win in a playoff anyway, ending a nearly eight-year PGA Tour victory drought when he looked like it was drifting away down that aqueduct along the 18th hole.

Here then is our attempt at explaining what went down and why it was so … again, sorry, bizarre.

The set-up

Grillo started the day at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth four shots back of Harry Hall and Adam Schenk but made a furious charge, birdieing four of his first seven holes. As Schenk and Hall struggled down the stretch, both searching for their first PGA Tour wins, Grillo took a two-shot lead with another birdie on the par-3 16th. That was his advantage as he stood on the 18th tee at 10 under for the tournament.

All wet off the tee

Despite being ahead by two, Grillo used a driver off the tee, the ball leaking quickly to the right. It eventually found its way into a penalty area to the right of the fairway, in an aqueduct with water about two to three inches deep.

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Downstream issues

The aqueduct tilted downhill back toward the tee, so as the ball entered the water, it started following the flow and moving backward. Slowly. Very slowly …

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The rules explained

Mark Dusbabek, the PGA Tour rules official working the broadcast, helped explain to Jim Nantz, Trevor Immelman and the CBS crew what was going on in real time as he was also listening in to the rules team's discussions. Dusbabek explained that they had identified where the ball had entered the penalty area (roughly 187 yards away from the hole), which was the likely place Grillo would take a drop and play what would be his third shot with the penalty stroke. However, as the ball continued moving—as we said very slowly—down the aqueduct, there was the potential that Grillo could actually play the ball while it was moving.

Rule 10.1d notes that “A player must not make a stroke at a moving ball.” However, there are a few exception also listed. Exception 3 states, “When a ball is moving in temporary water or in water in a penalty area, the player may make a stroke.”

Dusbabek noted the potential for Grillo to hit the moving ball, but did Grillo know he could? Turns out he likely did, since he’d been in this aqueduct before.

“I’ve hit it there,” Grillo said after the round. “I knew, as soon as I saw the ball going right, I was like, ‘This is going to be a very long hole.’ I’ve been through that pain of watching the ball just roll 120 yards back.”

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Decision time

As the ball kept moving, however, Dusbabek explained that eventually Grillo had to make up his mind on how he wanted to proceed. He couldn’t wait forever to see if the ball would stop in a more advantageous spot or not or if he was set to hit it while it was moving. And after roughly seven minutes, Dusbabek even interjected that the committee had decided enough was enough and that Grillo would have to decide to play the ball where it entered the penalty area (or presumably take a stroke and distance penalty and go back to the tee).

“We as a committee have been talking about it but enough time has taken place and he has been given enough time to make a decision here, so we’re going to make him go back to where it last crossed,” Dusbabek said.

Moments later, the ball did stop against a rock, roughly 140 yards or so from where it entered the penalty area.

Third shot off a cart path?!?

The camera eventually showed Grillo taking a penalty drop just outside the aqueduct but the ball rolling back in. He did this twice and then placed the ball on the concrete, which got the curiosity of Immelman.

1494117000

Jonathan Bachman

"Dus, why was he allowed to drop it on the path right there?"

Dusbabek alerted everyone that the red line for the penalty area was right of where he took the drop. So the cement path was not in the penalty area, and is considered an immovable obstruction. Grillo didn't seem to be phased by it as he showed no hesitation in what was going to happen next.

Sparky!

Grillo played his third shot off the concrete, getting a pretty clean shot off. The ball advanced 146 yards, leaving him 44 yards left to get up-and-down for a bogey, that would still have given him a one-shot lead. But the fourth shot stopped 19 feet from the hole and he missed the bogey putt.

The rest of the story

To his credit, Grillo didn't mope around after his stumble, signing for a two-under 68 and waiting to see what would happen to Schenk and Hall as they played the 18th hole. Sure enough, Hall also found water, although the more traditional sort, as he pulled his drive into a small pond left of the fairway. He'd eventually make a bogey to finish tied for third.

Schenk had a chance to win in regulation with a birdie try from 15 feet but just came up short, forcing a playoff. They both replayed the 18th for the first sudden-death hole, Grillo finding the fairway this time. Pars from both sent them to the par-3 16th, where a birdie from Grillo would clinch the victory.