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Wyndham Clark's 'burrowing animal' rules break at Pebble Beach played a big part in his record-setting 60

February 03, 2024
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Wyndham Clark and his caddie look over his drop spot on the 16th hole at Pebble Beach.

Tracy Wilcox

Wyndham Clark got an enormous rules break during his otherwise spectacular, record-breaking round of 60 on Saturday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. And on the day after Groundhog Day, he has some kind of critter to thank for it.

Already 11 under par for his round and standing on the 16th tee, Clark pulled his drive into the heavy left rough. From the camera shot above, the ball took one bounce and disappeared into what looked like an awful lie. After CBS cut to an interview with Jason Day talking about the 63 that he shot, they returned to Clark’s situation. To viewers’ surprise, the reigning U.S. Open champion had his driver in hand and was taking a drop into what ended up being a tremendously better lie on top of the tall grass. Then we saw the reason: The ball came to rest just behind what the Rules of Golf refer to as a “burrowing” animal hole that is considered “abnormal ground.”

As PGA Tour and broadcast rules official Mark Dusbabek explained on the telecast, a player gets relief from an animal hole or its remnants if it not only affects his lie, but also the swing. In other words, if the player’s backswing or follow-through will be affected by the hole and the stirred-up dirt around it, he gets relief. “Wyndham had it right there,” Dusbabek said.

There was some confusion initially on the broadcast that Clark was taking a drop for a plugged lie, and that brings back nightmares for some of the Patrick Reed controversy at Torrey Pines in 2021. But since then, the tour has moved to be more proactive in its rulings, and at the beginning of last season it put in place a system by which a rules official is watching all the action from a TV truck. According to Dusbabek, the protocols worked well on Saturday, with rules monitor Orlando Pope seeing that Clark’s ball had bounced and probably not plugged. Pope then relayed that to the official on the ground, Gary Young.

In his explanation of the ruling after the round, Clark said: “We were right on the edge of it to where it was in my way, and I was essentially in the start of that animal burrowing hole. I brought the officials over to make sure because obviously the ground's very saturated. … I said, ‘What do you think this is?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that does not look like a divot or any sort of footprint;, it was definitely something that was going under the surface, so that's why we got the drop there.”

In the end, Clark got a far better lie and slashed an excellent shot onto the green, giving himself a 10-foot look for birdie. But his putt came up just an inch short, with Clark eventually making birdie on the closing hole to shoot 12-under-par 60.