OUR EXPERTS EXPLAIN
Not a Thrill for Phil September 7, 2016 By Jamie Wallace, USGA

Phil Mickelson is famous for getting himself out of tricky situations. This time, he utilized the assistance of Rule 26-2a. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

They don’t call him Phil the Thrill for nothing. In the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston last weekend, Phil Mickelson ran into some trouble on the par-4 sixth hole when his second shot found the lateral (red) water hazard next to the green. He decided to try to play the ball from inside the hazard and took two swings at it without advancing the ball more than a few feet. At that point, Mickelson chose to take relief from the lateral water hazard, under penalty of one stroke. Relief is usually taken immediately after hitting a shot into a hazard, but what are your options after an unsuccessful attempt (or attempts) to extricate your ball from a water hazard? 

This exact situation is covered under Rule 26-2a in the Rules of Golf. No matter how many swings Mickelson took from within the lateral water hazard, he can always take relief outside the hazard using either the spot where his ball last crossed the margin of the hazard or the spot of his last stroke from outside the hazard. So, Mickelson had the following relief options that would take him outside of the lateral water hazard, all for a penalty of one stroke:

    1) Drop a ball at the spot of his last stroke from outside the lateral water hazard, which in this case would have been the     spot of his second shot.

    2) Determine the spot where his second shot last crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard and then drop a ball on a     straight line from the flagstick through that spot, going back as far as he would like.

    3) Because this was a lateral (red) water hazard, Mickelson also had the following options that would NOT be available in a     regular (yellow) water hazard. Using the same spot from No. 2 above (the spot where his second shot last crossed the     margin of the lateral water hazard):

        a.    Drop a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than that spot, or
        b.    Drop a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than the spot on the opposite margin of the hazard                that is equidistant from the hole.

The Rules are designed here to give the player an option that will expedite play while allowing the player to get out of the water hazard in exchange for a penalty stroke. Mickelson eventually took relief from the lateral water hazard, and ultimately made a quadruple-bogey 8. He would miss the cut.

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