WGC Match Play referee on DeChambeau-Pieters mix-up: "Nothing we could do"

Chief referee Gary Young has told the media what exactly happened with the Bryson DeChambeau-Thomas Pieters debacle. 

Ben Smith's picture
Thu, 24 Mar 2022
WGC Match Play referee on DeChambeau-Pieters mix-up: "Nothing we could do"

Chief referee Gary Young must be sick of the sight of the media. A few weeks ago at The Players he was on hand to explain all of the ifs, buts and maybes about when the tournament that seemed like it was never going to end was going to finish.

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Young was back in action again this week at the WGC Match Play to explain exactly what happened with the bizarre scenario that sent Belgian Thomas Pieters apparently loopy while Bryson DeChambeau caught an extremely lucky break.

Both players saw their second shots end up in a sprinkler head on the 13th hole. Both players were lucky that it was there to stop their golf balls dropping into the lake.

But while DeChambeau was granted a free drop, Pieters wasn't. Despite both facing the same scenario, they got different rulings. 

DeChambeau later conceded he felt bad for the Belgian but said it was "a lucky break for me". Pieters was forced to play his. Well, he made an interesting attempt at trying to hole it before he made another interesting attempt to throw his ball into said lake in anger.

So what gives?

What chief referee Gary Young said, in full...

"So I imagine the question is why did we have a situation with Thomas Pieters earlier during his match where he was denied relief from a sprinkler head that was just outside the penalty area, and then later in a match with Bryson DeChambeau, he was granted relief from that same situation.

"Obviously match play, each match is its own individual story; let's call it that.

"To me, two wrongs don't make a right. To make the correction before Bryson's match got there was important.

"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. That play 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 it. The official who ruled on it was going based on what he was looking at, okay.

"Obviously the intention was to keep them all outside. But when he was looking at it, he ruled on it based on the fact that that red line was technically touching both the ball and the sprinkler head.

"At that time I don't want to say he ruled incorrectly because I think he ruled based on what he was looking at. It then got brought to our attention. 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.

"As they were down, on their way down there with some paint to correct the line, Bryson's situation came up. He called me on the phone and asked -- he said, I've got the same situation. Now that I know the intention was to have it outside the penalty area, are you comfortable with me ruling on it that way, and I said, yes, I want you to rule on it that way because we're about to change the marking on it.

"There was nothing we could do to fix the Thomas Pieters situation. It was over with. But just to get it right was important.

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How long before Bryson's shot was the decision made, "We're changing this?"

Young said: "It had already been made prior to his ball getting there. We had discussed it.

"We were in the process of getting the paint to the location, and the call came from the official: I've got the exact same situation again; how do you want me to handle this.

"And I said, you've got to rule on it now; now that you know our intention was to keep the ball in the general area, please rule on it that way.

"Again, it's the great part of the fact that this is match play and we can make those changes because each individual match you can change something like that.

"If it was a stroke-play event we would have had to keep it that way through the entire day until all competitors finished their round and then make the change. But because of match play, we did it in between." 

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Was Pieters advised of the change?

Young said: "I tried to catch up with him. He had already left the property. I've actually sent him a text message that I want to speak to him and explain it, so I'm going to do that."

What should we call this debacle, a painting error?

Young said: "I don't want to say that because obviously an error would have been to purposely paint and hit that thing and have it in there.

"It was just, again, windy conditions when you're marking the golf course.

"Anyone that's ever done it, it's blowing around on you out there in the wind, and I think the wind just caused it to get a little close, and quite honestly we should have picked up on that as a committee."

Next page: Casey forced to concede first match at WGC Match Play after two holes