A mis-hit. A fence. The rules. A hop over a fence. And memories of Phil Mickelson.
Yes, a sequence Thursday at the Fortinet Championship was wild. Yes, if you were playing bizarre-golf bingo, the five statements above may have been on your card.
“This might happen one time a year,” an announcer said on the PGA Tour Live broadcast.
Indeed. Let’s start here with the mis-hit.
That came off the iron of Sahith Theegala, on the tee on the par-4 8th at Silverado Resort. On his follow-through, he let go of the club with his right hand. His ball sliced right. It settled under a green, mesh boundary fence. A rules official was called.
The questions came.
Was the ball inbounds? After a short look at where the ball sat in relation to the fence’s posts that determined the boundary, it was ruled still in play. Barely. But close counts. According to rule 18.2a(2), “A ball at rest is out of bounds only when all of it is outside the boundary edge of the course. A ball is in bounds when any part of the ball: Lies on or touches the ground or anything else (such as any natural or artificial object) inside the boundary edge.”
Could Theegala get penalty-free relief from the fence? He could not.
Could he take one-stroke, unplayable relief? Sure. But the questions continued.
Could he hit it forward? Not really. Theegala and caddie Carl Smith thought about that option. Theegala could get his club on the ball sitting under the fence, but trees were about 15 yards ahead.
Could he hit it backward, with his back to the fairway? Not really. But Theegala and Smith went over this choice longer than the previous one. Theegala would stand on the inbounds side of the fence, extend his right hand over it while holding an iron and pop it back into play. Yes, that’s difficult. Theegala himself then asked a question, picked up by PGA Tour Live mics.
“Or the other way is …” Smith started.
“Hop over the fence?” Theegala said.
Really? Could Theegala himself go up and over the fence — and out of bounds — and hit the ball that was still inbounds?
Yes. It’s shortly covered under rule 18.2a(2), where it states: “A player may stand out of bounds to play a ball on the course.” So Theegala walked about 25 yards backward, stepped over the fence and walked back to his ball.
“This is incredible,” an announcer said on the PGA Tour Live broadcast.
“This is the best play,” another announcer said. “He’s talking about trying to hit it one-handed or standing on the other side of the fence. I don’t know what we were doing.”
From there, Theegala hit, the ball skipped out into the fairway, he climbed back over the fence, he pitched his ball onto the green, and he two-putted for a bogey five. He finished with a four-under 68, and on Friday, during the second round, he was four shots better.
One more question, though.
We’ve seen this before, right?
Yes, most notably by Phil Mickelson at the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open, where he stepped into a parking lot, turned a hybrid sideways and hit his ball that was sitting underneath a metal fence, with the impact making a distinct clanging noise. Notably, Mickelson’s caddie at the time, Jim “Bones” Mackay, was in the group with Theegala — his current player, Justin Thomas, was just yards away.
“JT just walked by me,” an announcer said on the PGA Tour Live broadcast, “and said that Bones probably had to talk to his other, previous boss out of more difficult shots than this.”
You can watch Mickelson’s shot below: