It took close to 20 minutes for Will Zalatoris to unravel the most miraculous bogey of the 2022 PGA Championship. As for the rest of us? Well, we’re still trying to figure it out.
Zalatoris’ 4 on the par-3 6th had a little bit of everything: an airmailed iron off the tee, an impossibly long rules discussion, a chip shot off a cart path and, eventually, a 12-foot bogey make that kept his tournament hopes alive. One thing it did not have? A simple explanation. Fortunately, that’s where we come in. Here’s what happened.
The situation began when Zalatoris, then eight under and tied for the tournament lead, knocked his tee shot through the green on the par-3 6th. Zalatoris’ ball boomeranged harder than a freeway exit, fluttering right of the green, off the TV tower, and even right of the fans rimming the hole. Eventually, his tee shot settled into a bush 30 or so yards from the putting surface.
He approached the scene and lowered himself to the ground, peeking underneath the canopy of leaves. After a prolonged conversation with the rules official assigned to his group, Zalatoris appeared to come away with a routine solution. He would take an unplayable from his place in the bush, allowing him to take lateral relief of two club-lengths no closer to the hole.
Zalatoris was soon parallel to the ground again, this time with a driver in his hands, measuring the distance. Once he counted off the relief, a new problem arose: Zalatoris’ two-club-length drop put him in a direct line with the TV tower. This qualified him for relief from a “temporary immovable obstruction,” which allowed him to move the ball further away from the bush. But the TIO relief brought with it another issue: with his updated drop location, Zalatoris was now in the middle of the cart path.
In most instances, a ball coming to rest on the cart path is subject to free relief courtesy of Rule 16.1, which provides “relief from manmade obstructions.”
Even Zalatoris himself believed he’d be allowed to scoot to the other side of the path, nearer to the hole, which would have given him an easy chip to get up-and-down for bogey. Quickly, the rules official informed him otherwise.
“Is there any way I can wind up on the other side of the cart path?” Zalatoris asked the official, who offered a simple answer:
According to the official, Rule 16.1 allowed for a drop only to the “nearest point of complete relief.” Given Zalatoris’ position on the path, the nearest point of complete relief was … back in the bush where his ball originally landed.
So, after all that chaos, Zalatoris faced a choice: Hit his approach from the cart path, or from right next to the bush. He chose the cart path, and after 14 minutes of intense discussion, finally lined up for his shot.
From there, Zalatoris clipped a perfect chip from the asphalt, sending his ball skidding to a stop mere feet from the flagstick. He surveyed his bogey putt for a few minutes more, then watched as it side-doored into the hole.
Zalatoris walked to the 7th tee at seven under. It had been 20 wild minutes and, somehow, his PGA Championship hopes were still alive.