Rules Junkie: J.B. Holmes’ ‘Serious Breach’ At Doral

J.B. Holmes didn’t have the showing at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last week that he or many others expected. The runner-up in 2015, Holmes shot rounds of 77-72-72 to sit at 5-over par and 17 shots back of the leader entering the final round on Sunday at Trump National Doral.

Holmes teed off well before the leaders and found the lateral water hazard to the left of No. 1, marked with red stakes, an important distinction. Being considered a lateral water hazard — as opposed to being just a water hazard — Holmes had five options for his drop under Rule 26-1

If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

It’s important to note the different provisions under 21-1c because that’s where Holmes got mixed up. Here’s how Phil Tataurangi on PGA Tour Live described it:

As Tataurangi explained, Holmes took pieces of the “opposite margin” option and combined that with 21-1b. Holmes moved some 25 yards back of the hazard line, keeping the point at which the ball last crossed the hazard between him and the hole (21-b) from the opposite side of the lake (21-c), thus breaking the rule for an improper drop, which officials labeled as a “serious breach” of the rules.

Holmes was told of his error when he reached the first green and as a result, had to return to where he should have played his third shot from and incur a two-stroke penalty. Had Holmes finished the hole and hit his first shot on the second hole, the rules infraction would have resulted in him being disqualified. 

As it turned out, he carded a double-bogey 7 and went on to shoot a final-round 80, good enough for a 59th-place finish and a $51,000 payday. 

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