How Scottie Scheffler avoided a nightmare at the Masters


Scottie Scheffler managed to make a bogey from an incredible position at Augusta National’s final hole and all club golfers should note how he did it

When Scottie Scheffler’s tee shot from the 18th went sailing into a bush, it looked like his healthy Saturday lead at the Masters was about to unravel.

Thanks to an incredible third shot, though, the American escaped with a bogey and went into the final round with a three-shot advantage and one arm in the Green Jacket.

But as much as that approach was superb, the way he handled the situation as his ball disappeared into trouble and the way he used multiple rules to assist him was equally as impressive – and there is a lot you can learn from this as you try to avoid running up a big number at your own course.

So let’s break down what Scheffler did, and what the Rules of Golf said about each of the options he took…

He marked his ball when lifting to identify it

Firstly, Scheffler had to find the ball and then make sure it was his. After hunting around the foliage, and coming across a ball, Scheffler marked it and then lifted it to identify it. Rule 7.3 covers this and it’s one that should be seared into your brain.

I’ve seen some very, very, good players search for their ball, locate one and bound in there and just pick it up without thinking about it, and then receive a penalty stroke for their thoughtlessness.

If you come across a ball that might be yours, and it cannot be identified as it lies, you can lift it to do so – but the spot of the ball must be marked first and you can’t clean it any more than is needed to make sure it is yours.

He decided to take unplayable ball relief

Once Scheffler has confirmed the ball is his, he returns it to its original spot. He’s obviously got the option to play it as it lies, and in his post round interview he confirmed he had considered that but, in the end, he decided to take unplayable ball relief under Rule 19 for one penalty stroke.

We’ve all found ourselves in this position and you’ve got three options. You can take stroke-and-distance relief, so you can go back to the tee and hit the shot again (you can even tee it up), and you can take back-on-the-line relief – going straight back from the hole through the spot of the ball.

Neither of those looked appealing to Scheffler and he decided to take lateral relief using Rule 19.2c. This allows him to drop a ball in a two club-length relief area using the spot of the original ball as the reference point.

There’s a couple of things to consider if you find yourself in this kind of situation. You use the longest club in your bag (that’s not a putter), to measure the two club lengths, and you also need to consider if two club lengths is enough to escape the bush.

You can’t simply pick up the ball, move it away from the trouble, and then get your driver out. If two club-lengths aren’t enough and you still find your ball in a bush after taking relief, it’s a new situation and you’d need to go through the whole process again

You can remove loose impediments before you drop

Scheffler removed pine needles from the area in which he wanted to drop and there’s an interpretation to Rule 15.1a, which covers loose impediments, which reveals this is fine – and may definitely help you when you find yourself potentially dropping into a tricky lie.

The interpretation reveals when a ball is to be dropped or placed, and isn’t being put back in a specific spot, as was the case with Scheffler, removing loose impediments before dropping or placing a ball is allowed.

Be careful with this, though. While Rule 8.1b (2) allows you to take “reasonable actions” to remove loose impediments, if you go in there and start carelessly sweeping, without concern for any loose soil around you, you are at risk of falling foul of Rule 8.1a and taking an action that improves the conditions affecting the stroke. The general penalty – two shots or loss of hole in match play – is an expensive result for a moment of carelessness.

As always, make sure when removing loose impediments that you don’t move the ball, either, as that will also cost you a stroke.

You can probe for tree roots

You might have noticed Scheffler poking a tee into the ground in the relief area. He was probing to see if there were any tree roots in his relief area and you may not know this but this perfectly allowed under the rules. And it’s not just tree roots either. An interpretation to Rule 8.1a reveals you can probe near your ball to see if rocks or obstructions are below the surface of the ground and which your club might strike if a stroke was made.

There is a caveat to this. You can only do this is if it doesn’t improve conditions.

What to do when the ball won’t stay in the relief area

After all that, Scheffler then moved on to dropping the ball. Knee height as you all know but the ball rolled outside the two-club length relief area. Rule 14.3c (2) covers what to do here. If this happens to you, drop the ball in the right way again for a second time.

If it comes to rest once more outside the relief area, you’ve now got to place the ball on the spot where the ball that you dropped for a second time first touched the ground.

That’s why you’ll have noticed Scheffler pointed to that area as soon as the ball made contact with the ground.

This process can get a little convoluted if the placed ball doesn’t stay at rest on its spot (as happened to Scheffler when it rolled away slightly after it was set down and let go).

If a placed ball doesn’t stay at rest on a spot, you place it again for a second time. If it still won’t stay on its spot, you need to place the ball on the nearest spot where the ball will remain at rest. It’s all covered by 14.3c (2) and 14.2e if you want to delve a little closer into the fine print.

So there you have it. While people often think the Rules are there to punish them – ‘I’ve hit a bad shot and here’s the penalty’ – with a bit of careful thought you can use what’s in the book to make the best of a bad situation.

Then you just have to hit it 237-yards to the green. Good luck with that!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar spot and have the Rules of Golf helped you extricate yourself from it? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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