Playing the par-5 11th hole, the reigning Masters champion pulled his tee shot into the first cut of rough just left of the fairway. With his ball between two sprinkler heads, he called for a rules official and after a lengthy discussion was allowed to take a drop that offered an apparently better lie.
“I was going to have to hit down on it to make good contact,” Schwartzel explained, “so I was scared I was going to catch one of the sprinklers.”
“You have to have interference,” PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle told GolfChannel.com. “It was in that zone where interference is sketchy. I’m not going to swing the club. He has to tell me; he’s going to hit it. We did the practice swing to see and it was obvious he was going to hit it. It’s not giving him a big break or anything, but you still have to have interference.
“Sometimes you get on that edge and you’re like, ‘Well, is it or isn’t it?’ You can’t tell me, ‘I think I have interference.’ You have to have interference. So we had to discuss it. He’s such a gentleman. He knows to do the right thing. He had to think about it and said, ‘Jon, I’m 99 percent sure that it is interference.’”
When asked if 99 percent is enough or whether a player needs to be 100 percent positive in such a situation, Brendle responded, “I think 99, because you get to some edges. In my mind, I could mark it ground under repair and know that he could get relief. He’s not getting anything. It would be different if he was behind a tree or something. He was just trying not to hurt himself.”
Schwartzel said he was confident it was the correct ruling and won’t have anything weighing on his conscience.
“He left it up to me,” he said, “and I said to him, ‘I’m pretty confident that I was going to hit the sprinkler head with that lie.’ If it was an uphill lie, I wouldn’t even have asked him.”
After the ruling, Schwartzel hit his second shot to 12 feet, then two-putted for birdie. He posted a 1-under 71 and will go into the weekend at 1-under overall, seven shots behind leader Steve Stricker.