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Thomas Pieters’ crazy chunked-putt saga takes new rules twist

September 24, 2022

Ross Kinnaird

Thomas Pieters ended his last Twitter post on Friday night with a funny signoff: #Luckyidiot

The idiot part might be a bit harsh. But the lucky seems appropriate. Or fortunate if nothing else.

During Friday’s second round of the Open de France at Le Golf National, Pieters was facing a long birdie putt on the par-5 third hole. As he pulled back his putter, he heard a spectator cough, which caused him to try to stop his swing mis-stroke. Unfortunately, Pieters couldn’t stop quick enough, grazing the ball with his decelerating club. The ball looked like it had been chunked, moving only about six feet from its original spot.

Pieters called in an official to explain what had gone on, who initially said that unfortunately that stroke would count. Pieters asked to get a second opinion. As he did with the first official, Pieters tried to explain he was trying to stop and that he no longer had intended to hit the ball. The second official was more willing to take into account Pieters’ thought that he was no longer trying to hit the ball, and decided under Rule 13.1d, that Pieters could return the ball to its original spot and putt again without penalty.

Here’s the language of that rule.

There are two specific Rules for a ball or ball-marker that moves on the putting green.

(1) No Penalty for Accidentally Causing Ball to Move. There is no penalty if the player, opponent or another player in stroke play accidentally moves the player’s ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

The player must:

-Replace the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated)

-Place a ball-marker to mark that original spot.

Pieters went ahead and two-putted for a par. He went on to shoot a one-under 70, 10 strokes back of 36-hole leader Rasmus Hojgaard, but the incident on the third hole wasn’t entirely closed. After reviewing the incident soon after Pieters had played the hole, Mark Litton, the DP World Tour chief referee on site decided that under the definition of a stroke, Thomas’ attempt not to strike the ball failed and the fact that he made contact with the ball meant the stroke should have counted. (Litton was not present for the original ruling, according to the DP World Tour). The ball should have been played from the position where it came to rest.

However, because Pieters had played on, and because he had been incorrectly advised by an official to play without penalty, Pieters was not retroactive penalized for what happened. A DP World Tour official said the tour used guidance from the R&A that says:

“Where a referee in stroke play incorrectly advises a player that his or her stroke does not count and to play again without penalty, the ruling stands and the player’s score with the replayed stroke is the player’s score for the hole.”

This all becomes even more relevant given what’s going on during the Saturday’s third round as Hojgaard made a quintuple-bogey 8 on the par-3 second hole and is four over on his round en route to shooting a three-over 74 (after rounds of 62-65 on Thursday and Friday). Meanwhile, Pieters has made five birdies through the opening 12 holes to shoot a 66 and now trail Hojgaard by just two shots entering the Sunday's final round.