Cypress trees take their toll at Harding Park

Even before the 102nd US PGA Championship at Harding Park got underway, Tiger Woods predicted that the heavily foliaged cypress trees would extract revenge on any number of errant shots.

And he was absolutely spot on in regards to the fate of Justin Thomas in round one and Charl Schwartzel in round two.

Both players leaked tee shots towards the guardians of the fairway and even though marshals saw exactly which tree each ball entered, neither were able to find and identify their ball within the allowed three-minute search period and were required to accept a stroke and distance penalty under Rule 18.2.

Even though it is known approximately where the ball came to rest in a tree, this is not sufficient to allow the player to apply the Unplayable Ball relief options of Back-on-the-Line or Lateral Relief since both require the player to use the exact spot of the original ball as a reference point when establishing where to drop.

This meant that returning to the tee was their only option.

Those who watched Schwartzel’s situation unfold would have been forgiven for thinking that he was searching for divine intervention as he borrowed the Chief Rules Official’s binoculars and gazed skywards.

In actual fact he was trying desperately, not only to spot a ball lodged in the branches but also to identify the ball as his through his unique identification mark.

If the ball can be identified as belonging to the player there is no requirement for them to retrieve it from the tree when deeming it unplayable.

On more than a handful of occasions my own binoculars have come to the rescue of players in a similar predicament.

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