Tony Finau uses Rules in a clever way for ‘a big-time break’

Tony Finau hits his tee shot on the 3rd hole at El Camaleon Golf Club on Saturday.

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Tony Finau, on the 451-yard, par-4 12th hole at El Camaleon Golf Club, hit his tee shot left, into a dense collection of trees and bushes. He hit a provisional. If he’d find his ball, he’d likely have to take a drop in the thick stuff, somehow punch out and be staring at a double-bogey 6. Or worse. If he didn’t find his ball, he’d have to play the provisional, and there, too, likely be looking at a crooked number. 

Finau made a 5. 

“I think where that tee shot was headed, he’d be very thankful with a 5,” said an announcer on the Golf Channel’s broadcast of Saturday’s third round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. 

He can thank the Rules of Golf. 

Finau, to that point, was flying. He had aced the par-3 4th. He birdied 5, 7 and 8. Then, as he was moving up the leaderboard, he went left. 

“Left of the cart path is just no good,” another announcer said.  

“We have seen a few unexpectedly found golf balls in there, been able to play it, but that’s deep, that’s really thick jungle,” a third announcer said. 

Finau’s ball was both unexpectedly found and unexpectedly embedded. Finau had called over rules official Rico Pierson, the ruling was confirmed, and he took a free-of-charge, two-club-length drop. From there, he punched back out to the fairway. 

“That’s a big-time break,” the third announcer said. 

“Yeah, that was extremely lucky because if he had had to take an unplayable and still have to pitch out, he would rather have played his provisional,” the second announcer said. “But since he got the free drop, got a chance at making par here.”

From 140 yards out, Finau hit his third shot to within about 15 feet. He would miss the par putt short. He finished with a two-under 69 and is five shots behind Emiliano Grillo

“Well, when you win a golf tournament, you take advantage of opportunities, and he’s been given an opportunity here,” the second announcer said.  

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.