Masters 2022: How Scottie Scheffler used the Rules of Golf to survive a potential 18th-hole nightmare


Scottie Scheffler takes a drop for an unplayable lie after hitting his tee shot on the 18th hole into the trees left of the fairway.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Impressive and bogey don’t tend to appear in the same sentence. And yet the 5 that Scottie Scheffler made on Augusta National’s 18th hole to close out a one-under 71 and claim a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the 86th Masters deserves such accolades.

Indeed, his fate could have been far worse—and his lead over Cameron Smith much smaller—if not for a fortunate series of events after an unfortunate tee shot on the home hole late Saturday.

Scheffler had hit 11 of 13 fairways during the third round, looking comfortable with his driver, before tugging his tee shot on the 18th. His ball rattled in the trees left of the fairway only 220-some yards up the hole. As the World No. 1 ambled up the fairway with caddie Ted Scott, volunteers initially struggled to find the ball, giving Scheffler a bit of a fright.

“Obviously, I didn't hit a good tee shot," Scheffler said. "And after that, I didn't think … I didn't hear anything loud. Teddy was like, ‘I saw it clip a branch.’ We're, like, no big deal, just be over there on the left and chip out, whatever. And then we saw the guy with the flag that always finds the balls kind of panicking. I was like, ‘oh, crap, wonder what's going on here?’

“Fortunately, they found the ball. And then all I was trying to do was figure out how I was going to get it on the green for my third shot. And fortunately, I was able to take an unplayable out of the bush and still have a swing."

Interestingly, Scheffler gave some thought of trying to play the shot from where it lay, but the awkward stance ultimately forced him to reconsider.

From there, Scheffler smartly worked within the Rules of Golf, talking to DP World Tour rules official Kevin Feeney who was in the area, to give himself the best chance to avoid a big number.

It began with Scheffler marking his ball in the trees and picking it up (but not cleaning it) to confirm it was actually his. Scheffler replaced it in its original spot, then took out a driver to measure out two club-lengths to the right of the ball that would give him the best chance at still potentially reaching the green. It would be his third shot after adding the unplayable penalty.

After determining his drop area, Scheffler continued to confer with Feeney.

Could he move some of the pine needles before he dropped the ball? Feeney originally told Scheffler no, but when Scheffler pushed thinking that he should be allowed to do so, Feeney corrected himself. In the Rules of Golf Interpretations for Rule 15.1/a3, it states that “when a ball is to be dropped or placed, the ball is not being put back in a specific spot and therefore removing loose impediments before dropping or placing a ball is allowed.” And pine needles are considered loose impediments.

Could he check the ground with a tee to see if there were any roots in the drop area? Yes, that's also OK under the rules.

When Scheffler took his drop, it rolled outside the two clublengths, requiring a second drop. When that happened again, the rules allowed him to place the ball in the pine straw and set up what measured as a 237-yard shot to the green.

From there, Scheffler pulled out an 3-iron and launched his third shot, a baby draw that hit the green and just rolled off the back edge.

Seemingly the hard part was over. Yet Scheffler did what many of his fellow competitors before him couldn’t do with his next shot: He putted the ball and kept it on the top tier of the green, nestling it to two feet. Notably, earlier in the day, Tiger Woods attempted a chip, but knocked his some 50 feet past the hole.

Scheffler rolled in the bogey putt, averting a major crisis and setting up the potential for career-changing Sunday at Augusta.