‘Sorry, I’m so confused right now’: Pro stuns analysts with disastrous play
Sam Ryder dropped, he hit, and his ball landed 12 feet from the hole. It was a sound sequence.
But the problem was, at least two former pros-turned-analysts thought, it should have come one swing earlier, when disaster struck.
In the end on Saturday, Ryder double-bogeyed the 10th hole at Sea Island Golf Club during the RSM Classic’s third round, and he moved from one stroke out of the lead, to three. A decision after his tee shot on the 10th, though, cost him at least one of those shots, and maybe both — and befuddled Golf Channel’s Johnson Wagner and Billy Ray Brown.
“That’s — sorry, I’m so confused right now,” Wagner said on the broadcast.
To start here, Ryder was charging Saturday, with birdies on 7, 8 and 9. But on the 409-yard, par-4 10th, he shoved his tee shot right, over the cart path, and into a marshy penalty area that was a few feet below the fairway. Complicating matters more, his ball was a couple feet to the left of a small, wooden barricade that outlined the marsh, along with muddy turf. Ryder called for an official.
Said Wagner on the broadcast: “Billy Ray, it doesn’t seem like he has much of a swing. It’s so far below his feet and where he can even be able to play it from.”
Said Brown: “To be honest with you, I’m not sure why he would actually play this ball. Drop and take your medicine.”
Ryder, though, first explored. He carefully lifted impediments. He wondered what would happen if he stepped into the marsh and his ball were to move.
“Then you’re obviously going to be under penalty,” the official said, his words picked up by Golf Channel mics.
Said Ryder: “Right. So what if I was to get in and try and gingerly make my stance?”
Said the official: “If you cause that ball to move, you’re going to be under penalty.”
Said Ryder: “Gotcha. So stepping in here, basically at the risk of that. Boy, it [the ball] looks like it’s just hanging [from its spot in the marsh].”
Here, Ryder stepped in with just his right leg. The ball didn’t appear to move. Ryder thought about hitting a wedge out to the left and back into the fairway. His caddie, Brent Everson, thought it was an option. He eventually handed him an iron.
Said Wagner on the broadcast: “Seems like it would be a hero shot to get it back into the fairway. I just don’t — seems like the risk is not quite worth the reward here to me, Billy Ray.”
Said Brown: “Johnson, to your point, I just don’t see him — just to get it back into the fairway is going to be a tall task from here. He’s got some trees over to the right, and he’s got to get it up quickly. This is a big gamble here for Sam.”
Ryder went with it. He hit.
His ball almost immediately hit the wooden barrier to his left, and it ricocheted farther right into the penalty area.
From there, he didn’t try a second time, and he took his penalty drop out to the left. Did he think he could escape on the first go? Obviously. Was it a moment of invincibility? Perhaps. Should he have dropped? Maybe.
Said Brown on the broadcast: “Hit that bulkheading and went back to the penalty area.”
Said Wagner: “You’re bringing double bogey into play in a situation where you just don’t have to be that careless. You’re not really going to improve what a drop would be. You’d be dropping there, which he’s going to do now, and he’s going to have a 9-iron in his hand. He’s got an experienced caddie on the bag in Brent Everson — B is one of the best — but I just don’t understand what he’s trying to gain by playing this. If it comes out great, it could just as easily go through the fairway and into the penalty area on the other side.”
As Ryder worked through his drop, there were more thoughts. The conversation turned to Everson, who Brown and announcer Steve Sands eventually said tried to talk Ryder out of the shot.
Said Wagner on the broadcast: “He probably wanted to avoid this situation where you have to drop it onto the cart path, then take relief from the path. That’s — sorry, I’m so confused right now.”
Said Sands: “Johnson, course management is such a huge part of the game at all levels. The mind is racing a little bit. It’s only Saturday, not Sunday, but you really do need to keep your poise in these types of situations.”
Said Wagner: “In that situation, the caddie has to take over and say something to the effect of, I know you can hit this shot. I know you can get it back to the fairway, but we’re not going to take that risk right now. Let’s just take the drop right here, give ourselves a look at par, walk away with no worse than bogey.”
Said Sands: “Billy Ray, you played out there for a long time; it’s not easy for a caddie to do that. But in this particular situation, wouldn’t you be appreciative of your man saying that type of thing to you?”
Said Brown: “Yeah, I definitely love that. You know, after the fact, though, I would say here, he’s got to let his experienced caddie — he’s been out here for a number of years — and I got to be honest, I think he was actually trying to talk him out of the shot. But once Sam made that commitment, I think he had to get on board with it.”
Said Sands: “It certainly sounded like Brent got in there early and tried to talk him out of it. He’s a fabulous caddie. Tough spot there for Sam.”
From there, Ryder hit to 12 feet right of the hole with his fourth shot, missed his bogey putt and finished with a double-bogey six. Potentially, he could have dropped from the get-go, hit the green with his third shot and putted for par.
He finished with a five-under 65, and he’ll start Sunday’s final round five strokes back of Ludvig Aberg.
Said Wagner on the broadcast: “When there’s so many guys within four or five shots of the lead, to casually make such a big mistake, every stroke matters, especially on the weekend.”