Tape measure grants Bryson DeChambeau free drop at WGC-St. Jude

bryson dechambeau tape measure

Bryson might never receive another ruling like this one.


It appears no part of Bryson DeChambeau can fully escape the spotlight. Not even his golf ball.

On Sunday at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, DeChambeau was involved in one of the strangest rules situations of the 2021 PGA Tour season, a ruling that featured a tape measure, a fence and later, a tree.

The situation began on the tee box of the sixth hole at TPC Southwind, a 436-yard par-4. Bryson, who was tied for the lead at the time, blocked his tee shot into a fence on the right side of the fairway. Typically, in situations involving a shot hit into a fence, PGA Tour rules dictate that a player be given a free drop from an area no nearer to the hole. But naturally, this was no normal tee shot.

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When Bryson approached the fence, he found his ball pinned underneath it, with just a flash of white protruding from the structure’s green cover. Immediately, he called over rules official Ken Tackett, who offered the following interpretation:

If DeChambeau’s ball had found a way completely under the fence, it would be considered out of bounds, and he would be forced to take a one-stroke penalty and drop next to the structure. If any part of his ball was extended into the field of play, his ball would be considered in bounds, allowing him to play his ball from its spot under the fence.

bryson dechambeau driver
Days since last Bryson rules scenario: 0. Getty Images

Then things got weird. In order to determine whether Bryson’s ball was indeed underneath the fence, Tackett and another official were forced to break out a tape measure, a la a football chain gang. The two officials spread out the tape to find half of DeChambeau’s Bridgestone remained within the field of play, allowing him to advance the ball.

Phew. Situation over, right? Wrong.

With his ball officially playable, DeChambeau embarked on a second rules argument: asking for relief from the cart path adjacent to the fence under rule 16.1, which provides relief for immovable objects and “abnormal course conditions.” Tackett agreed with DeChambeau’s assessment of the situation, and afforded him free relief from the path, allowing him a free drop to move his ball across the path and into the nearest point of complete relief.

On the ensuing approach shot — an ostensibly simple wedge into the green — Bryson’s ball again found trouble, striking the tree in front of him and traveling a total of 22 yards, according to ShotLink. He’d managed to avoid the penalty, but found a pseudo-penalty in the form of the tree.

Finally, on his third shot, DeChambeau found the green, and two putts later, he was in for a disappointing yet oddly chaotic bogey.

A silver lining on the situation? No fire ants (and no 10s) … yet.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.