Branden Grace is contending at the BMW PGA Championship thanks in part to a questionable ruling he received during the opening round at Wentworth.
Grace opened the European Tour's flagship event with rounds of 68-71, and at 5 under he sits two shots behind Belgium's Thomas Pieters. But he's facing criticism for a free drop he received after his ball plugged into the face of a greenside bunker on the 13th hole Thursday.
The South African appeared to be headed for a double bogey, but after digging his feet into the sand he called over European Tour rules official Mark Hill and explained that his feet were touching the rubber sheet at the bottom of the bunker. That prevented him from taking his intended stance and, in turn, entitled him to a free drop.
Hill consented, and after getting a free drop Grace blasted to 10 feet and ultimately made a bogey. The series of events didn't sit well with former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who voiced his opinion during the Sky Sports telecast.
"It was ridiculous," McGinley said according to the (U.K.) Telegraph. "If you twist your feet enough, you're bound to eventually reach the bunker lining. That means anytime a player wants relief from a poor lie he can simply twist his feet until he reaches the bunker lining. That can't be right."
Former Masters champ Danny Willett took to Twitter to chime in on the drop, asking the European Tour for an explanation:
@EuropeanTour please explain that drop?! Burying feet enough in to get to the base of the bunker???— Danny Willett (@Danny_Willett) May 25, 2017
Jonathan Smart, Willett's longtime caddie who quit on him after the first round of the RBC Heritage last month, is working this week for Grace.
Grace was asked about the drop after the opening round, and he explained that he had encountered a similar situation at the WGC-HSBC Champions a couple years ago and became familiar with the rule as a result.
"A rule is a rule, and I took advantage of the rule there, and it helped knowing the rule in some respects," he told reporters. "Fortunately for me, I got away with a good drop but I still made bogey. I can understand if some people criticize you for standing in the middle of the bunker and going too deep, but if you're standing on the upslope it's not always easy getting a stance."