Harris English stood on the 1st tee at Winged Foot’s West Course on Sunday afternoon with a chance to win the 2020 U.S. Open, the first major of his career. By the time he arrived at the 1st tee for the second time minutes later, he could only shake his head in disgust.
Because one of the worst scenarios imaginable happened to English’s first drive of the final round: it was lost in the rough.
English piped his drive on the difficult par-4 and lost it to the left. His ball deflected off a tree and fell into the notoriously thick rough at Winged Foot. It wasn’t the shot he wanted to hit on the opening hole, but it wasn’t a tournament-killer, either. Or so he thought.
Volunteer spotters nearby couldn’t find his ball. Once English and his caddie arrived, they furiously looked for it in the several-inches long grass. Even playing partner Xander Schauffele, as well as some fellow competitors playing an adjacent hole helped in the search, but to no avail.
Once the three minutes players are permitted to search for a lost ball was up, a rules official broke the news to English, and he headed back to the tee to hit his second drive.
Balls lost in the rough this week are treated similarly to tee shots hit out-of-bounds. The player takes a stroke penalty, and then must return to the tee to hit his third shot.
English’s second drive found the left rough again, near where his first ball disappeared. Fortunately, they found this one. He then hacked out from the rough, sending his ball into a greenside bunker.
Fortunately, he was able to get up-and-down from there. Unfortunately, it all added up to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to two over for the tournament and seven shots behind leader Wolff, who had yet to tee off.
But anything can happen over the final 17 holes, so despite the devastating start, English still has a chance if he can get it going soon. You can watch a USGA staffer explaining the rule in question below: