Reliving some of 2021’s high-profile rulings

Reliving some of 2021’s high-profile rulings


During this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Jason Day’s tee shot sailed toward the trees right of the fairway on Bay Hill’s 16th hole. Day’s ball was heard rattling around the trees. No one saw it fall to the ground, however.

Upon reaching the area where his ball was likely to be, a search by the volunteers, spectators and the players and caddies in the group began.

In 2019, the time allotted for a player to search for his ball was reduced from five to three minutes. The clock starts when the player or his caddie begins to search.

If the ball is not found and identified before the three-minute window expires, the player must return to the site of his last shot under a stroke-and-distance penalty. In this case, Day would have to go back to the tee and play his third stroke.

If “a” ball is found in the tree, it must be identified by the player as his ball. Simply finding a ball with the same brand and number do not automatically make that specific ball the player’s. The specific markings on the ball the player used to signify that it was his ball, need to be seen.

If the player can identify the ball as his, he can declare it unplayable proceed under the rules for an unplayable lie. This would allow Day, under the penalty of one stroke, to drop a new ball within a club length of the spot on the ground directly beneath where his ball sat in the tree. This option is much less severe than going back to the tee.

As the 3-minute search wound down, someone spotted a ball high up in the tree. Not knowing if it was his ball, Day had various means to try and identify the ball as his.

He could climb the tree, throw something at the ball to dislodge it or use a rangefinder or binoculars to identify it. Unfortunately, the ball was too high in the tree for any of these options to work.

Just prior to Day’s three-minute window expiring, a photographer was spotted in the crowd with a very large zoom lens attached to his camera. Per the referee’s request, the photographer snapped a photo of the ball in the tree and was able to enhance the still image to check the markings on the golf ball.

This allowed Day to identify the ball just as time expiredwas able to proceed under his unplayable options. This was an extremely fortunate result due to the nearby photographer.

The same issue arose for MacKenzie Hughes on the par-3 11th hole in the final round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

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