The American sparked a Ryder Cup row when two officials refused him a free drop from a nearby drain. Our expert explains what the rules have to say
Take Brooks Koepka and a profanity-laced tirade and we got the Ryder Cup rules controversy we’ve been waiting for.
In his Saturday morning foursomes match at Whistling Straits, partnered with Daniel Berger and up against Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, the American found his ball nestled in a patch of fescue off the 15th fairway.
With it lying close to the opening of a nearby drain, Koepka wanted relief and argued it would interfere with his swing.
Match referee David Price did not agree, though, and neither did a second official, Mark Litton, as both denied him a free drop.
That led to a sweary outburst from the US player, who told the pair of referees: “If I break my wrist, this is on f***ing both of you.”
He eventually played his shot and incredibly found the green as he and Berger halved the hole. The Spaniards, however, would go on to win the match 3&1.
Koepka’s antics caused fury on social media, with golf fans berating him for the extended row and for his response to the officials.
So why did the rules officials make the call?
The drain was classed as an obstruction. It was, obviously, immovable and immovable obstructions are one of four abnormal course conditions from which you can get free relief under the Rules of Golf.
Rule 16.1a says interference exists if a player’s ball touches, is in, or on, an abnormal course condition, or if it physically interferes ‘with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing’.
The rule concludes by saying if the abnormal course condition is ‘close enough to distract the player’ but doesn’t meet those requirements above, there’s no interference.
Both officials ruled the drain didn’t get in the way of the area of intended swing and so the fact it might prove a distraction to Koepka, who was worried about hitting it on his follow through off the back of a recent wrist injury, wasn’t enough to give him a free drop.
Koepka still had options available if he was concerned following the ruling. For example, he could have chosen to take unplayable ball relief but at the cost of a penalty stroke.