PGA Tour officials changed a ruling midway through the first day of the WGC Match Play that negatively impacted Thomas Pieters but benefitted Bryson DeChambeau.
Next to the 13th green, Pieters' ball came to rest on a sprinkler head after two shots. He assumed he was entitled to relief, but this wasn't the case.
The sprinkler head was deemed inside the penalty area as the grass with red paint was resting against the top of the sprinkler. Pieters was not best pleased and he carelessly chipped his ball off the sprinkler and lost the hole. Thankfully for him, he won the match.
The exact same thing happened to Bryson DeChambeau in his match with Richard Bland. But DeChambeau was given free relief and he was able to tie the hole and tie his match with the Englishman.
"When we heard about the original ruling, the way the penalty area is marked, the line - and as you look at them out on the golf course, the line kind of goes around each sprinkler head, keeping it in the general area of the golf course, not in the penalty area," said chief referee Gary Young.
Imagine moving the sideline during the middle of an NFL game. pic.twitter.com/2OpYkUasqK— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) March 23, 2022
"That way a player is always going to get relief. When the golf course was marked, the line got a little bit closer. Obviously, there's a lot of wind when you're making these golf courses. The line got a little too close to (the sprinkler).
"We talked about it as a committee and felt very firmly, two wrongs don't make a right. We've got to correct this because clearly, it should be outside."
Young said that the official in Pieters' match decided on that ruling because of the red paint touching the sprinkler head, but this was not the intent of the course set-up.
Rules official Craig Winter was covering DeChambeau's match and he contacted Young to say they had the same situation. But this time, they ruled it differently and gave the former US Open champion relief in order to correct the rule.
The Bryson situation with the sprinkler on the 13th hole was raised just as the officials were on their way down to spray paint the penalty line.
"I was happy it was up first, then they said you can't get relief. I was like, what are you talking about, it's in the sprinkler head and outside of the hazard," DeChambeau said after his match.
"I had a rules official come up and he clarified it to me, that Thomas didn't get relief. I was like, well, you guys did - he goes, yeah, but we changed it because it just wasn't right, and apparently they can do that in match play. I feel really bad for him, and a lucky break for me."
It seemed a very controversial decision to change a ruling halfway through a day of competition, but individual matches don't affect other ones in different groups.
"If the shoe is on the other foot and I wasn’t getting a drop I think I’d be throwing the ref in the water," Bland said after the match. Very well put indeed.