Why Was Rory McIlroy Granted Free Relief At The US Open?

On the 14th hole, McIlroy received a huge slice of luck after he was granted a free drop due to his ball being plugged in the rough just above the bunker

Rory talks to official during a drop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Going down the stretch of the US Open on Sunday, the battle between Wyndham Clark and Rory McIlroy was heating up with both men fighting it out for the third men's Major of the year.

It's no secret that golf is a game of inches and, at the 14th hole at Los Angeles Country Club, that was exactly the case when, after he pushed his third shot, McIlroy was granted relief from a plugged lie in the rough just above the bunker

Although he failed to get up-and-down, the bogey was a lot better than what could have possibly transpired, but the mistake did mean he dropped two back of Clark at the time, with the American safely in the fairway.

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So, why was McIlroy given free relief from the edge of the bunker? Well, the reason is due to the ball being embedded in a general area. Essentially, the ball was resting in its own pitch mark and, after marking it with a tee and identifying it, he was able to move the ball one club length no nearer the hole.

This does raise the question though of what is a general area? So, a general area is all areas of the course aside from bunkers, penalty areas, which used to be known as hazards, the putting green of the hole you're playing and the teeing area that you start from.

What McIlroy did was perfectly reasonable, especially with a rules official on site and, although he was able to take a drop into the rough next to the green, it was still a difficult up-and-down. Consequently, after his chip didn't grab, he was faced with a lengthy par putt that didn't drop.

The last point worth noting on the matter is that there is no free relief when your ball is embedded in sand in the general area away from the fairway, and if your ball is embedded in an area where playing a shot is clearly unreasonable, you do not get free relief. For example, if your ball is plugged deep inside a bush you would have to take the normal unplayable lie relief and the penalty shot that comes with that rule.

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.

Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.

Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x