A pro hit one ball — and another popped up. The ruling was notable
New Zealand pro Shae Wools-Cobb was, maybe all at once, stunned, confused and uncertain. That much was easy to see.
— His right hand let go of his wedge on his follow-through.
— After a step backward, he rotated his right wrist to the right to turn his palm up, then he slightly raised his hand. (If you’re unfamiliar with the move, think shoulder shrug.)
— He looked down.
— After he took a few steps forward as he started to assess what had happened, he looked quickly at his club face.
— He talked to some folks.
— He laughed with his caddie.
The reaction, we’d argue, was warranted, though. The sequence that saw him hit his ball — and another ball that was apparently buried beneath it — was a weird one.
To start, Wools-Cobb was on a sidehill at Millbrook Resort during last week’s New Zealand Open. An analyst on the broadcast called the lie “gnarly.” Someone, at some other point, would likely agree with that assessment. When Wools-Cobb hit, his ball shot out toward the green, but a second ball also popped out and dropped about 5 yards to the right.
“Oh my goodness,” an announcer said on the broadcast. “What’s happened here is that there was a ball right beside where his was. He’s trying to make sense of it because his came out flying toward the green, but there’s one that’s gone a couple meters in front of him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.”
It’s unquestionably improbable. Someone would have had to hit there and plugged their ball — and Wools-Cobb needed to hit his ball on top of it. But it happened. Wools-Cobb eventually went over to the ball that was unearthed — a marshal had been pointing at it — then walked down the slope, talked to some bystanders and moved on. He handed his wedge to his caddie and laughed.
So … what’s the ruling for hitting two balls?
No penalty! Wools-Cobb had made a stroke at his ball and just his ball — he had no intent to hit the ball he didn’t know about — so he was good, a rules expert told GOLF.com. Wools-Cobb was free to play on.
All of it was still bizarre, though.
“Maybe it was underneath his ball almost,” an announcer said on the broadcast. “That’s just extraordinary.”