Peter Malnati gets huge rules break late in winning round at Valspar Championship

PGA Tour pro Peter Malnati discusses a free drop with a rules official on Sunday at the 2024 Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort

Peter Malnati discusses his crucial free drop with a rules official on Sunday at the 2024 Valspar Championship.


Once the dust had settled on an epic battle among a crowded leaderboard Sunday at the Valspar Championship, Peter Malnati stood alone on top as the victor. But if not for a huge rules break late in his round, things could have turned out very differently for the Tour veteran.

When Malnati reached the par-4 16th hole at Innisbrook’s Cooperhead Course on Sunday, the long list of contenders had been pared down to two. He and Cameron Young, who was hunting for his first PGA Tour win, were knotted at 11 under.

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Malnati’s shapely drive on 16 was perfect, finding the short grass and setting up a seemingly straightforward 174-yard approach to the green. But Malnati knew his shot was off as soon as he hit it, and he could only watch as it flared right, bounced on the green, then rolled into thick rough beyond the collar of the putting surface.

The lie was terrible, but it had one saving grace: a sprinkler head sat just a few inches from his ball.

As a first step, Malnati called over a PGA Tour rules official to discuss his options. Typically, sprinkler heads are considered immovable obstructions, or abnormal course conditions, and governed by Rule 16 in the official Rules of Golf. If an immoveable obstruction interferes with your swing or your stance, you are awarded a free drop within one club length of the nearest point of relief.

While Malnati’s club wasn’t at risk of hitting the sprinkler if he played it without relief, his foot would have been standing on the sprinkler head, so he was allowed to take the free drop.

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The next question was where the nearest point of relief was for Malnati to make his drop. After going through several options with the rules official, they found that in most scenarios the sprinkler head would still be interfering with Malnati’s swing or stance.

Unbelievably, they finally determined that the nearest point of relief was on the fringe of the green, which meant Malnati got to improve from a horrible lie to a near-perfect one free of charge.

Malnati himself could hardly believe his good fortune, so much so that before making the drop, he said to the official, “I feel this is a great break, and I want you to… this is the right way to do it isn’t it?”

The official agreed, and Malnati proceeded to take his drop then successfully get up-and-down for a much-needed par.

Once Young made bogey at 18 and Malnati secured a birdie, it was all over, and the 36-year-old American claimed his second-career PGA Tour title, with a little assist from the rules.

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