Rules Confusion! DeChambeau Gets Free Drop After Pieters Doesn’t

The American benefitted from a controversial free drop - but for Thomas Pieters, there was no such luck

The balls on the sprinkler head at the WGC-Match Play
(Image credit: Twitter)

Thomas Pieters is at the centre of a controversy at the WGC-Match Play after being denied a free drop given to Bryson DeChambeau for landing in the same position.

The Belgian hit his tee shot on the 13th to the right of the green, then chipped his second shot to 14ft. Unluckily for Pieters, the ball had landed on a sprinkler head. While this would typically entitle a player to a free drop, the sprinkler head was touching a red line marking the penalty area. After consulting with a PGA Tour official, Pieters was frustrated to learn he was being denied the free drop. 

Pieters’ frustrations were then compounded when his opponent, Tom Hoge, made a birdie to leave him needing to hole out to halve the hole. Pieters’ reaction said everything about what he thought of the decision – he casually hit the ball well beyond the hole, then attempted to kick it into the water. Check his reaction out here:

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This would have been a controversial enough incident on its own. However, an hour later, Bryson DeChambeau – already experiencing an eventful day – was awarded a drop even though his ball landed on the same sprinkler head. Once the hole was completed, a rules official was quickly on the scene to spray paint the grass over the sprinkler head green, removing the offending red line. The apparent double standards left golf fans perplexed:

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Thankfully for Pieters, the highly controversial incident didn’t put him off his game too much – he won his match 2&1 and will now prepare to face Min Woo Lee on Thursday and Billy Horschel on Friday.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.