In wild 72nd-hole ruling, Tour pro asks official unusual question

Sami Valimaki asked a rules official a unique question.

Sami Valimaki asked a rules official a unique question.


When Sami Valimaki spotted his golf ball lodged under a boundary fence, he knew he was toast.

Valimaki was down two shots on the 18th hole Sunday at the Mexico Open when his tee shot on the par-5 finisher sailed right, bounced off a cart path and bounded down toward the fence line.

“I had target on my mind, but just before the shot I did a little switch, I tried to hit fade,” he said after the round. “I don’t know why, I normally hit just draws. So I tried to hit like perfect and then just let it ride. I don’t know, was it lucky or unlucky I hit the road?”

His playing partner in the final pairing, Jake Knapp, didn’t find the fairway, either — Knapp hit only two fairways all day — but he kept his tee shot left, away from a towering tree and out of bounds, giving him an an easy layup from the fairway bunker from where he would make par.

While Valimaki wasn’t out of bounds like he feared from the tee, his chances of winning the tournament still were all but lost, because there was no way to play his ball without taking an unplayable.

Valimaki called over a rules official to help him take a drop.

But as Valimaki discussed his options with the official, he paused momentarily.

“Ahh, one question,” Valimaki asked the official. “Do you know the score?”

Knapp was two shots ahead at 19 under while Valimaki was at 17 under. But that wasn’t what Valimaki was looking for. He wanted to know how many strokes he was up on third place.

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During this time, Knapp played his second shot from the bunker and hit a perfect layup into the fairway, 85 yards from the hole. The odds of him making bogey were slim, so Valimaki would have to hole his next shot after a penalty and a drop to have any chance. Holding on to second place, though, still was very valuable to him.

After the Genesis Invitational, the Aon Swing 5 is reset for Arnold Palmer Invitational qualification, with points only from the Mexico Open and next week’s Cognizant Classic counting.

With Knapp likely to win, he would jump into the top 10 of the FedEx Cup standings, meaning he would qualify for the Arnold Palmer as part of the Aon Next 10, the 10 highest-ranked players in the FedEx Cup standings not otherwise qualified.

That means 300 FedEx Cup points from a runner-up finish would have put Valimaki in pole position for a spot in the $20 million API heading to Palm Beach, virtually assuring him of a spot.

The official got on his radio and asked to confirm the scores; Valimaki was three shots clear off the three-way tie for third at 14 under. He could go for broke.

Valimaki then started walking around the sandy area where he was to take his drop, but the broadcasters were worried that could cause another problem.

“You gotta be careful not to put footprints where you’re going to drop the ball,” NBC analyst Curt Byrum said. “And that’s soft there.”

But Valimaki wasn’t intending on playing his third from the sand. A two club-length drop got him close enough to a cart path that he’d be standing on it. This meant his nearest point of relief — because the sandy area was part of the cart path obstruction, as the official explained — was on the other side of the path in the grass.

“What a break!” Byrum said.

Just when Valimaki couldn’t have gotten a more fortuitous ruling after the horrendous tee shot, his first drop in the grass settled down in the rough; but the official then asked Valimaki to re-drop because he had dropped the ball from shin height and not knee height.

“He’s going to have to thank him for making him redrop,” said on-course reporter John Wood. “Because it’s a much better lie than the first drop.”

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Finally, five minutes and 26 seconds after he got to his ball, Valimaki hit his third shot from 202 yards just short of the green. From there, he pitched on and make the putt for one of the most eventful pars he’s likely ever made.

Knapp hit onto the green and calmly two-putted for his first PGA Tour win, and Valimaki halved him on the hole to easily hold onto second, despite a wild ride that got him there.

Here’s how it looked on Shotlink:

Shot 1: 340 yds to unknown, 202 yds to hole

Shot 2: Penalty
Drop on the cart path, 203 yards from the hole
Drop on the right rough, 202 yards from the hole

Shot 3: 184 yds to right fairway, 58 ft 0 in. to hole

Shot 4: 60 ft 10 in. to green, 3 ft 6 in. to hole

Shot 5: Made putt for par.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at