U.S. Open 2024: How pros use a 'lucky' legal rule to their advantage at Pinehurst


PINEHURST, N.C. — Bryson DeChambeau hit exactly one bad drive all day on Thursday in the opening round of the 2024 U.S. Open. And now, he was behind what looked like a telephone pole. The drive came on Pinehurst No. 2's par-5 fifth, DeChambeau's 14th hole of his first round.

The reachable par 5 meant the group in the fairway needed to wait for the green to clear, which created an awkward logjam on the tee box. DeChambeau waited some 20 minutes before finally getting the go-ahead, and whatever muscle stiffness accumulated during that time sent DeChambeau's drive wide right, into the trees and near the out of bounds fence.

A crowd had gathered around DeChambeau's ball by the time he had arrived, as had a rules official. DeChambeau's ball was in play, but between him and the hole was a small, skinny pole. It was a ShotLink tower, installed by the USGA this week to track the shots of each player coming through. Under the Rules of Golf, that made this structure a "temporary immovable obstruction," and as such, DeChambeau could move his ball to the nearest point of relief, under Rule F-23, without penalty.

Could DeChambeau have hit his ball around the tower? Yes, but he wasn't obligated to.


The front portion of the fifth green is occupied by a large false front. Right of the green is a bunker, which the green slopes away from. The flattest portion of the fifth green narrowly extends from front right to back left.

Players knew the best target was on the left side of the green, or long left. Max Homa, playing in the group with DeChambeau, missed in the right bunker and failed to get up and down earlier. Viktor Hovland, the third player in the group, missed his shot long left and would've got up and down for birdie were it not for a missed five-footer. DeChambeau wanted to follow the Hovland route.

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"That pole is right on the line where I want to go," the 2020 U.S. Open champion said.

The nearest point of relief that took the ShotLink tower out of play looked to be about 30 feet left of where his ball was, closer to the fairway, plus two more clublengths—another three feet.

When it came to the drop itself, DeChambeau was equally deliberate. The issue he was trying to avoid was dropping his ball into a footprint within the trampled-down sand.

"I think the best-case scenario is that I drop it as close to the tee as possible, and let it trickle around here," DeChambeau said to his caddie, Gregory Bodine. He was pointing to a large footprint that had pushed up sand around its perimeter.

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And that's what happened. He dropped his ball and watched it trickle back a few inches. The ball was in play.

Incidentally, from his new spot, DeChambeau hit his ball exactly on the line he said he was intending to: onto the back-left portion of the green some 244 yards away, where he two-putted from for birdie. It was DeChambeau's final birdie of the day en route to a three-under 67.

Drops like this, under the Temporary Immovable Obstruction provision, have become something of a sore spot for fans, who feel TIO relief is too generous for tour pros. The tour pros, often, agree.


"I got a really lucky drop," DeChambeau says. "Really lucky."

But the rules are the rules. The USGA created this one, and now players know how to use it. At the 2024 U.S. Open, it's a detail in the rulebook that might prove the difference.