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Why was Xander Schauffele allowed such a favourable drop at the Wells Fargo?

After hitting a drive into trees at Quail Hollow Golf Club, Xander Schauffele benefitted from a lucky break which allowed him to take free relief…

 

Xander Schauffele and his caddie Austin Kaiser were rustling around in the trees on the 8th hole during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

The pair met their ball in an incredibly difficult position but, as if by magic, Schauffele’s ball appeared outside the vegetation and in a favourable spot after a ruling was given by a PGA Tour rules official.

The image of the American standing over his pitch shot, compared with the previous few minutes where he and his caddie were wading through greenery, caused outrage on social media. So why and how was Schauffele allowed such a fortunate reprieve?

So his drive went sailing right on this 356-yard par 4 at Quail Hollow. The ball was found under trees and next to the fence in a penalty area. Schauffele was deliberating punching a low iron through the the branches towards the green.

ALSO: Wells Fargo Championship prize money 2024

But a ShotLink tower and its cables were also in front of the ball on the other side of the trees which is classed as a Temporary Immoveable Obstruction. Relief from a TIO is usually allowed when there is physical interference or line-of-sight interference. Model Local Rule F-23 in the rules of golf summarises the ins and outs of TIOs.

Xander Schauffele: Ruling causes online outrage

Rules official Dave Donnelly determined that the tower was in the line of Schauffele’s sight and, even in a penalty area, a player can take free relief, but the relief area must be in the penalty area.

“You can see the camera tower right there. It’s one of our ShotLink camera towers, and there’s a wire that comes down off of that,” rules official Mark Dusbabek said on Golf Channel.

“So the determination that Dave just made is that Xander – can Xander make it to that camera tower through the trees there? And Dave has made the decision that he can. So he’s going to get relief out of that. It’ll be free relief, even though he’s in the penalty area. He has to stay in that penalty area to take his full relief.”

The seven-time PGA Tour winner took his two club lengths to the left and away from the blockages. He played his 48-yard pitch and saved par when a big number had initially been staring him in the face.

xander schauffele ruling

“Wyndham found it pretty close to the fence,” Schauffele said. “Punching out backwards was impossible because the fence was (near a foot of) my ball, so the only advancement since the two rocks were moved was actually punching towards the green.

“So I brought the rules official in and I was like – I either go back to the tee or I try and force it forward, and if I force it forward, worst case is it gets stuck in there and then I can just punch it back out and I’d be grinding for a five – and the wire was perfectly in the way.

“The tower was just in the luckiest spot possible. So then I can take equidistant relief either side of the tower, went left, the club lengths got me on the very edge of the pine straw.”

Besides this errant drive, Schauffele played superbly on Thursday at Quail Hollow, carding a seven-under 64 to take a three-shot lead into the second round.

NOW READ: What clubs does Xander Schauffele use?

NOW READ: What is a PGA Tour Signature event?

What did you make of this Xander Schauffele Wells Fargo rules issue? Tell us on X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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