How Jason Day got a Rules break thanks to a photographer’s zoom lens

Jason Day

Jason Day tries to identify his ball on Friday on the 16th hole at Bay Hill.

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Jason Day had hit his tee shot right on the par-5 16th at Bay Hill, it had improbably nestled into a bird’s nest some 20 yards above the ground, he had needed a photographer’s zoom lens to identify it, he had dropped and he had finished with a double bogey. But his summation of the hole was better. 

“I think the mama birdie’s going to come back and find another egg there,” Day said.

He had made an actual birdie.  

Day, during Friday’s second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, hit his tee shot on the 497-yard 16th just about 300 yards and right of a fairway bunker. And, as it would turn out, above it. After a search, a ball was spotted in the bird’s nest, and Day and others in his grouping worked to identify it. 

Under the rules, if his ball could be ID’d, Day would unlock two additional options of relief: lateral, under rule 19.2c, and back-on-the-line, under rule 19.2b. If he couldn’t identify his ball, he would be forced to take the much more penal stroke-and-distance relief option, under rule 19.2. Of course, Day could have also tried to climb the tree to hit the ball — much like Sergio Garcia did at the 2013 Arnold Palmer — but that did not appear to be an option. 

“Team effort right here to try and identify the golf ball,” an announcer on the PGA Tour Live broadcast. 

“I really enjoy how everyone is giving their input,” another announcer said. 

His playing partners looked up. Their caddies looked up. The PGA Tour Live broadcast showed the ball in the nest. Day was handed a pair of binoculars, and he leaned on his caddie’s right shoulder at one point to get a steady look. A photographer then zoomed in.  

“See that ball right there?” Day said to the photographer as he pointed up. “Can you zoom in really close?” The ball was identified. 

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“Yes, that’s it,” Day said. “Thanks, mate.” 

“It was actually the photographer that came in and zoomed in on it, and I’ve got the ball — well, I don’t have the ball, but like I could see the Tour B XS on the logo on the side, and I’m like, ‘That’s it, that’s perfect,’” Day said after his round.

From there, Day dropped a few yards left of the tree, and he would finish with the double-bogey seven. 

And a bird had a ball. 

“It’s unfortunate, but I’m glad we found it in the end,” Day said.

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor