Pro ricochets ball off himself, rules are questioned — then there’s a miracle
He twice hit the lip. He hit himself. The TV analysts wondered if there would be a penalty on that one.
Then Kramer Hickok holed out, raised his right hand, fist-bumped a smiling Jon Rahm and tried to count up all of his strokes.
“It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen today,” analyst Ian Baker-Finch said on the CBS broadcast.
That it may be. In the end during Saturday’s third round of the PGA Championship, Hickok put himself down for a bogey-5 on the 452-yard, par-4 12th at Southern Hills. Though above par, too, was the entertainment value.
The sequence started after Hickok dumped his second shot in the left greenside bunker, about four feet below the lip. Shot three hit it. The ball then ricocheted backward, Hickok slid backward to try to avoid it, and it hit his right foot, before settling into the mark where he had been standing.
If you were wondering if the contact were a penalty, you would not be alone. Before 2019, it had been.
“Oh, it’s even worse now too,” analyst Frank Nobilo said on the CBS broadcast. “He’s going to take a penalty, and look at the lie — it’s in his footprint.”
“Oh, he’s going to need some help from the rules for that one,” analyst Nick Faldo said.
“Oh, that’s right — they changed the rule,” Nobilo said.
“Oh yeah, you’re right,” Faldo said. “If it hits you now, you’re OK.”
Indeed. According to rule 11.1a, “if a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person or outside influence: There is no penalty to any player. This is true even if the ball hits the player, the opponent or any other player or any of their caddies or equipment.” (A good explainer of why the rule was changed can be found here.)
Said PGA of America rules official Brad Gregory on the CBS broadcast: “Yes, this was part of the 2019 rules package, that these accidental deflections are treated as just like accidents and there’s no penalty, and you just play the ball as it lies.”
Hickok proceeded on. But with the ball now partially covered by the footprint he created, he could manage only to hit the ball a few feet — where the lip still was. His ball trickled back again. Hickok took a step to the right before settling in for his third swing from the sand.
Then he rolled his ball in.
It dropped about 10 feet short before finding the middle of the cup. Hickok fist-bumped Rahm, his playing partner. His fist-bumped his caddie. And Rahm’s. CBS cameras then caught him trying to add up his shots with his fingers.
“This one you think is bad,” Nobilo said on the broadcast during a replay of the sequence. “But watch the ball. I mean, it’s going to be like, bang, it’s going to hit me. Did the rule change? Because as a player you got to think of that. And now you go, oh no. So another crack. Third bunker shot.
“Sand on that ball and everything, it still goes in.”