Lee Hodges made one of the more dramatic putts you’ll ever see on Saturday at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
His 16-footer on the 17th hole started as a pretty straightforward uphill par putt.
The ball started right and curled back toward the cup, eventually settling just on top of it. And then the wait began. And continued. On and on and on. His playing partner, Jordan Spieth, insisted the ball was going to drop.
Eventually, he was right, after a 35-second pause, gravity took hold and the ball tumbled in on its own.
The TV commentators compared it to Tiger Woods’ famous birdie chip-in at the 16th hole of Augusta during the 2005 Masters. There’s a few key differences between the two:
A. The shot helped Woods win the Masters, while Hodges is well out of contention at the PGA Championship
B. Woods’ ball only paused above the hole for about 2 seconds
That second fact was actually very key, because there’s a USGA rule that limits the amount of time a player can wait for a ball that settles just outside the cup.
“If any part of a player’s ball overhangs the lip of the hole:
“The player is allowed a reasonable time to reach the hole and ten more seconds to wait to see whether the ball will fall into the hole.”
And the rule goes on to say that if the ball falls in after 10 seconds has elapsed, it will result in a penalty:
“If the ball then falls into the hole before it is played, the player has holed out with the previous stroke, but gets one penalty stroke added to the score for the hole.”
Hodges’ score on 17 was adjusted to a bogey after the round, with the PGA Tour explaining the ruling in a statement:
“During play of the 17th hole, Hodges played his first putt to the edge of the hole and after having walked up to the hole, behind his ball, he then waited more than 10 seconds. The ball then fell into the hole, after the 10-second limit provided for in the Rule. As a result, Hodges received a one-stroke penalty, under Rule 13.3a, and the ball was holed.”
Tough break, considering he’s now 10-over through three rounds and 15 shots behind the leaders. He’s ranked 143rd in the world and this week marks his first made cut at a major. One penalty stroke wasn’t going to change the outcome of the event for him, and who knows if Hodges was even aware of the 10-second rule?
Alas, golf loves its obscure rules.