Branden Grace is defending his ruling after taking a controversial drop during the first round of the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Grace was tied for the lead after 12 holes when his approach on the par-4 13th plugged into the high side of a bunker. Grace called over an official and explained that, after digging his feet in the bunker to stabilize his stance, his shoes were coming into contact with the rubber sheeting at the bunker’s base. He insisted he was entitled to a free drop, and was granted one from inside the bunker.
Instead of facing what could have been double-bogey, Grace had a chance at par. He missed, and settled for bogey.
Some in the golf world were incensed. Former European Ryder Cup team captain Paul McGinley, working for Sky Sports, called the drop “ridiculous.” 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, who shot an even-par 72 Thursday, took to Twitter to demand clarification from the European Tour.
@EuropeanTour please explain that drop?! Burying feet enough in to get to the base of the bunker???
— Danny Willett (@Danny_Willett) May 25, 2017
But Grace is standing by the ruling, saying he had precedent from a similar instance at the HSBC Champions in China a few years ago.
“When I took the stance, there was only one or two inches of sand and my foot kept sliding on the material, the rubber, underneath the sand,” Grace said. “A rule is a rule, and I took advantage of the rule there, and it helped knowing the rule in some respects. Fortunately for me, I got away with a good drop but I still made bogey.”
Grace doesn’t think the criticism applies to his scenario.
“It’s quite a steep upslope there,” he said. “I was trying to get a stance with my right foot, but my left one I didn’t have to do too much. The right one was sliding down most of the time and then obviously getting down into the sand I was touching the rubber. A rule’s a rule, and that’s exactly what the rules official is there for.”
Just a few hours earlier, Grace’s fellow countryman Ernie Els called a penalty on himself after he felt he was given an advantageous lie from a free drop. Grace finished his first round two shots behind leader Johan Carlsson.
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) May 26, 2017