Masters Rules Incident - Why Was Scottie Scheffler Allowed To Change His Ball?

Scottie Scheffler was forced to take a drop at the last hole at Augusta National, with some viewers curious as to why the number on the ball had changed

Scheffler and caddie take a drop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As Scottie Scheffler teed off the last hole at Augusta National (opens in new tab), he had a four-shot lead. However, what followed soon became a big, big talking point, with his drive off the 18th clattering into the many trees at Augusta and coming to rest in a bush that forced the American to take an unplayable shot.

That wasn't the end of the story though. As Scheffler weighed up his options, he made sure to identify the ball, correctly, with the American being heard to say it was a Titleist 7. However, as he dropped the ball (opens in new tab) to play his next shot, the camera zoomed in to reveal a Titleist 8. As a result, many users took to Twitter to question why it had happened.

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So, what did happen? Well, in the process of taking his drop, Scheffler was told that he could clean his golf ball. Along with the cleaning of the golf ball, he asked the official if he was allowed to change it because his Titleist was likely damaged from the impact of the trees.

The rule states that: "You may use a different golf ball any time you are proceeding under a relief Rule (see Rule 6.3b(1)). The only time you may not switch golf balls is when you are replacing your ball on a spot (such as when you have marked your ball on the putting green or have lifted your ball on the course because it interfered with another player’s play)."

Essentially, you can always use a new ball when starting a hole and you can also substitute a different ball any time you are taking relief, including both free and penalty relief. Unless the one-ball Local Rule is in effect, the substituted ball could be any brand.

The one-ball rule is an optional condition that Committees may choose to use. It basically means that you must play with the same brand, make and model of golf ball that you started the round with. However, because it wasn't in effect, Scheffler was able to change his Titleist 7 to an 8.

Scheffler gives the ball to his caddy

Scheffler will start the final day at The Masters with a three-shot lead

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After dropping out of the bush by two-club-lengths, Scheffler found himself on the pine straw, which he was allowed to move as it is classified as a loose impediment (opens in new tab). He was not able to remove dirt however, so was careful when removing the pine straw.

Consequently, he dug his tee into the ground around where he was planning to drop the ball to check for any tree roots, which was certainly a wise decision to ensure he avoided injury by striking a root.

Now playing his third shot, he would manage to produce a stunning approach that just dribbled off the back of the green. As he rolled-up his fourth, he tapped-in for a closing bogey to sit just three shots ahead (opens in new tab) of recent Players champion, Cameron Smith, with 18 holes remaining.

Matt Cradock
Matt Cradock

Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.