Viktor Hovland, his ball just off the 17th green at the Albany Golf Course, twice brushed away sand on the green with his right hand. He picked up another piece of sand on the green and tossed it away. Before he putted for birdie during Sunday’s final round of the Hero World Challenge, he stepped a few feet ahead and threw aside four more pieces.
Had any of that sand been off the green — and both the brushed pieces and the first tossed-away piece were maybe no more than the width of a tee from being so — Hovland would have been hit with a two-stroke penalty.
And he wouldn’t be your Hero winner today.
Hovland went on to bogey 17, then, as he was putting on 18 with a two-shot lead, NBC reported that PGA Tour rules officials were in television trucks examining where Hovland had lifted sand from. According to rule 13.1c, “during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, a player may take these two actions on the putting green, no matter whether the ball is on or off the putting green: (1) Removal of Sand and Loose Soil. Sand and loose soil on the putting green (but not anywhere else on the course) may be removed without penalty. (2) Repair of Damage. A player may repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition.”
Of course, had Hovland been removing sand from off the green, part of the “general area,” it would have been a two-stroke violation of rule 8.1a4. That rule states: “a player must not take any of these actions if they improve the conditions affecting the stroke: Remove or press down sand or loose soil.” Hovland won the tournament by one shot.
In a text message to GOLF.com, PGA Tour rules official Gary Young further clarified the ruling, writing: “Sand or loose soil is not a loose impediment in the ‘General Area.’ Only on the putting green.”
A few minutes after reporting the incident was being reviewed, NBC reported that Hovland was cleared of any infraction.