Augusta, J.A.; Like and ghost tend not to appear in the same sentence. However, the number 5 that Scottie Scheffler made on hole 18 at Augusta National to close one under 71 and claim a three-shot lead before the final round of the Masters 86 deserved such accolades.
In fact, his fate would have been much worse – and his edge over Cameron Smith much less – had it not been for a series of fortunate events following an unfortunate shot on the home pit late on Saturday.
Scheffler hit 11 of 13 lanes during the third round, looking comfortable with his driver, before pulling off a tee on the 18th. His ball hit trees just 220 yards above the hole. While the world No. 1 ranked player was cruising down the aisle with canister Ted Scott, the volunteers initially struggled to find the ball, causing Scheffler to feel a little horrified.
“Obviously, I didn’t take a good shot,” Scheffler said. “And then, I didn’t think…I didn’t hear anything out loud. Teddy was like, ‘I saw him chop off a branch.'” We, like, don’t have a big deal, just there on We left and we go out, whatever. Then we saw the guy with the flag who always panicked about the balls. I was like, ‘Oh, crap, I wonder what’s going on here?’
“Fortunately, they found the ball. And then all I was trying to do was figure out how I was going to get it in the green for my third shot. Fortunately, I was able to get an unplayable game out of the bush and still have a swing.”
Interestingly, Schaeffler considered trying to play the shot from its spot, but the awkward situation eventually forced him to reconsider.
From there, Schaeffler cleverly worked within the rules of golf, talking to DP World Tour rules official Kevin Feeney who was in the area, to give himself the best chance of avoiding a large number.
It all started when Schaeffler was watching his ball in the trees and picking it up (but not cleaning it up) to make sure it was actually it (the number “8” on the ball provides confirmation). Schaeffler replaced it in its original position, then took a driver to measure two racquet lengths to the right of the ball giving him the best chance of getting into the green. This will be his third shot after adding the unplayable penalty kick.
After determining his landing zone, Schaeffler continued to consult with Finney.
• Can he move some pine needles before he drops the ball? Finney originally told Scheffler no, but when he prompted Scheffler into thinking he should be allowed to do so, Finney corrected himself. In the Rules of Golf Interpretations to Rule 15.1/a3, it states, “When the ball is dropped or placed, the ball is not returned to a designated place, and therefore loose obstacles are permitted to be removed before the ball is dropped or placed.” Pine needles are considered loose obstacles.
• Can he check the ground with a tee to see if there are any roots in the drop zone? Yes, that is also fine under the rules.
When Scheffler took a drop, it rolled out of my club length, requiring a second drop. When it happened again, the rules allowed him to put the ball in pine straw and prepare what Masters.com measured as a 237-yard shot into the green.
From there, Schaeffler took out a triple iron and fired his third shot, a kid drawing that hit the green and just shot off the trailing edge.
It seems the hard part is over. However, Schaeffler did what many of his fellow competitors before him could not do with his next shot: he hit a nice chip that stayed above the green, and put it on two legs. Notably, earlier in the day, Tiger Woods had a similar chip, but hit it 50 feet from the hole.
Schaeffler rolled into ghost mode, dodging a major crunch and setting up the prospect of a career-altering Sunday in Augusta.