How Matthew Wolff cleverly (and carefully) used the Rules of Golf to his advantage

Matthew Wolff carefully attempts to remove a divot that was resting against his golf ball.

Matthew Wolff carefully attempts to remove a divot that was resting against his golf ball.


Matthew Wolff was charging up the U.S. Open leaderboard on Saturday at Winged Foot — making five birdies in his first 11 holes — and nothing could stop him. But a divot tried to.

Wolff’s drive found the rough on the par-5 12th hole, but when he approached the ball he saw a divot from earlier in the week resting up against it. He now had two choices: play the ball as it lies and hope the divot doesn’t affect the ball flight, or try to remove the divot. However, the divot — similar to leaves or branches — is a loose impediment. Wolff was clear to remove it, but if he happened to move the ball while in the process, then it’d be a one-stroke penalty and he’d have to replace the ball.

Wolff decided to try and remove the divot, so he crouched down and took about 10 careful, concentrated seconds. Those watching on TV got a front-row seat.

“He’s playing a little Jenga right now,” said Jim Mackay, the on-course reporter.

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“This is like brain surgery right now,” added analyst Paul Azinger.

Wolff eventually removed the divot (without the ball moving), tossed it into the air and let out a sigh of relief. He smiled when a couple of onlookers clapped.

“That was impressive,” Craig Winter, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf and amateur status, said on the broadcast. “That was a loose impediment. Obviously Matt was being very careful about that, making sure his ball didn’t move.”

Wolff hacked out and made par to stay at five under for the tournament and in the co-lead (at the time) with Patrick Reed, but a Reed bogey minutes later gave him the solo lead. The 21-year-old Wolff has already had an outstanding day with a five-under round, but now you have to give his steady hand a little credit too. You can follow the final round here.

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