Carl Yuan was bailed out with a wild ruling on Sunday in the final round of the 2024 Sony Open in Hawaii.
On the 18th hole, a 550-yard par 5, Yuan was in a five-way tie for the lead at 16 under and found a fairway bunker off the tee. His second shot was wayward to the right and was bound for a hospitality tent down the right side of the fairway. Yuan’s ball wasn’t found, but a PGA Tour rules official granted the 26-year-old a free drop in the short grass two club lengths from the hospitality stand, which was ruled as a Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO). Yuan was unable to take advantage of the break and made par to take the clubhouse lead at 16 under.
“Virtual certainty” it went into the hospitality tent. But they never found the ball…🤔🤔🤔 pic.twitter.com/FjqFPHLznK
— Joseph LaMagna (@JosephLaMagna) January 15, 2024
Shortly after the incident, Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis reported on the broadcast that a rules official said there was “virtual certainty” from video evidence and fans in the stand that the ball was lost in the tent.
According to the USGA and R&A, if a player’s ball is not found but is known or virtually certain to have come to rest in a TIO, “the player may take relief by using the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the TIO on the course as the spot of the ball for purposes of finding the nearest point of complete relief.”
The video shows a white ball flying near the white tent before it disappears. The question is, if the ball wasn’t found, how could the rules officials or fans know with any certainty it was lost in the tent? Hospitality tents aren’t exactly quiet, so if fans heard the ball hit the tent, how do they know it didn’t ricochet out of play since it was never found?
The ruling was an odd one, and while it didn’t wind up impacting the winner of the tournament, the Tour may have some explaining to do.