Delayed Ruling Saves Finau A Stroke

Every week, it seems like there’s a questionable ruling that’s costing a pro either an unnecessary stroke or some exorbitant amount of money, yet a different scenario came out of the WGC-Mexico Championship last week.

Following a middle-of-the-pack 36 hole score of 1-over par, Tony Finau had a stroke taken off of his first-round score because a rules official felt he hadn’t communicated his ruling well enough with the Tour pro.

Playing his very first hole of the tournament, Finau pulled his drive left of the first fairway and it got stuck 10 feet up in a tree that was in a fenced-off area. The area had been determined to be a temporary immovable obstruction.

When Finau called for an official, Gary Young of the PGA Tour arrived. Finau declared that he intended to declare the ball unplayable, Young told him that in order to do so, he would have to identify the ball. That was no issue for the 6’4″ Finau who retrieved the ball with the help of an alignment rod.

With his ball identified, Young allowed Finau to take a free drop outside of the TIO, but without properly communicating to Finau that because the tree was enclosed in the TIO area, there would be no penalty. 

“I told the scorer he was hitting his second shot,” Young told the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson. “He didn’t understand all day why the score on the sign was different than he thought,”

Under the impression he had to take an unplayable lie penalty, Finau went on to make a four on the hole, plus one penalty stroke for the unplayable lie. He signed for a 5 on the hole, posting a 74 instead of the correct 73. It wasn’t until the next day that everything was sorted out.

Finau and Young saw each other the next morning. Finau thanked Young for his help the day prior and asked how the hole panned out, reported that he had made a 5 thanks to the penalty stroke. That’s when Young realized there was an issue.

“I took it to the committee and they were torn,” Young said. “I felt strongly there should be no penalty based on my miscommunication. We called the USGA, gave them all the details and they agreed it was a committee error.

“I told him it was my fault for not being more clear. Ultimately, it had the right ending.”

After 36 holes, Finau moved from 1-over par to even for the tournament. He would go on to shoot a pair of weekend rounds of 2-under par 69 to move into a tie for 25th place.

“That’s never happened to me before,” Finau said after finishing up.