Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you were watching the conclusion of Sunday’s final round of the BMW Championship, you may have noticed Sergio Garcia taking an inordinate amount of time to get a ruling, but it was for good reason.
Likely needing a par and at worst a bogey to crack the top-30 and ensure a spot in this week’s Tour Championship, the reigning Masters champion hit his second shot on the par-5 18th hole at Conway Farms Golf Club into the water hazard short of the green that runs beneath a grandstand.
With his ball visible, but up against a rock, there would have been no way to advance it directly toward the hole. After a few moments, the Spaniard channeled his inner Seve and determined the best option was to play a bank shot off the rock, similar to what we’ve seen on the 17th hole at St. Andrews.
“I knew if I got good contact on it, it would pop up and probably go in the grandstand behind the green,” Garcia said after the round. “We started looking at that.”
However, that’s when things got interesting. The issue was that Garcia’s intended swing was obstructed by the grandstand, which led to a lengthy discussion with rules official Stephen Cox.
The rule in question was Rule 24-2, and while it does not allow a player to take relief from an immovable obstruction when in a hazard, Cox explained that the temporary nature of the obstruction made Garcia eligible to receive a free drop, but that didn’t include free relief from the hazard.
“(If) the player’s ball lies in a water hazard, he would not get relief from an immovable obstruction for like a sprinkler head,” Cox said according to a Golf Channel report. “We have very large structures which are situated very close to the water hazard which ordinarily wouldn’t be there, so the rules allow a player to get relief when his ball lies in a water hazard.”
After two drops and over 20 minutes later, Garcia was able to place his ball with no penalty. His third shot bounced over the green, which required another, much more conventional drop. He then got it up and down for his par en route to a T12 finish, punching his ticket for next week.
“Obviously, any other day when the stands are not there, you’re in the hazard and just play it if you want to play it,” Garcia said. “But because the grandstands are there and the rules are there, I was able to take relief from it and kind of worked out well for me.”
Garcia ended the week as No. 25 in the FedEx Cup standings and made it comfortably to East Lake.
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