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Wyndham Clark has been riding the crest of a wave since winning last year’s US Open.

The 30-year-old’s form since making his major breakthrough at LACC – including a course record en route to victory at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am as well as back to back runners-up finishes to Scottie Scheffler at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass – has rocketed him to number four in the world rankings.

But even the very best cannot escape a good old-fashioned Rules of Golf controversy. (Just ask Tiger Woods…)

One of the more talked about moments during another enthralling Arnold Palmer Invitational was when Clark addressed his ball for his second shot from the rough while playing the 18th hole during his third round. The footage appeared to show Clark tapping down the grass directly behind his Titleist Pro V1x, which in turn caused the ball to move enough for armchair referees to call for penalty shots to be added to his score.

Rule 8.1b (4) says players are allowed to “ground the club lightly right in front of or right behind the ball”. It adds that “ground the club lightly” means “allowing the weight of the club to be supported by the grass, soil, sand or other material on or above the ground surface”.

“But,” it continues, “this does not allow pressing the club on the ground.”

It’s also worth noting how the Rules of Golf define the word “move” in this context: “When a ball at rest has left its original spot and come to rest on any other spot, and this can be seen by the naked eye (whether or not anyone actually sees it do so). This applies whether the ball has gone up, down or horizontally in any direction away from its original spot. If the ball only wobbles (sometimes referred to as oscillating) and stays on or returns to its original spot, the ball has not moved.”

Following his round, Clark and rules officials reviewed the footage and came to the conclusion that the player had done nothing wrong.

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Now, in an interview with Fox News, Clark discussed his regret at the accusation of cheating.

“It is unfortunate, because I had no ill intent to try to cheat or improve my lie,” he explained. “I didn’t even know anything had happened until I got into the scoring tent, and that’s when they showed me.

“You see the video, and you’re like, ‘Oh man, that doesn’t look great.’ But I’ve never tried to cheat in the game of golf, and hopefully people don’t think of me that way. I just think the camera was zoomed in and made it look worse than it really was.”

Clark also suggested the Rules of Golf need simplifying – not just for the pros, but for weekend warriors.

“There are some things where I’m like, ‘Can we dumb it down on the rules and not make it so complicated and make it a little simpler and more user-friendly?’” he said. “It’s second nature for [tour pros], so I don’t think about it as much, but when I get into social golf with buddies, and they’re asking questions, and they don’t understand, I’m like, ‘You’re right, it is really complicated and probably should be easier and simpler.’”

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To illustrate his point, it was by far the most talked-about incident of that day’s play in the post-round coverage on the Golf Channel.

Luke Donald, in the commentary booth at Bay Hill, said Clark “needed to be a bit more careful”, while the incident was discussed at length by pundits, with Dan Hicks, Brandel Chamblee, Brad Faxon and Todd Lewis all weighing in. Mark Dusbabek, the PGA Tour’s TV rules and video analyst, was also asked for comment, and while he said Clark’s ball had moved, it also went back into “its same spot”.

He added: “It doesn’t look like there’s enough there. It’s just hard to say. A player is allowed to ground his club with the weight of the club against the ground. So, that’s basically what he’s doing right there. I feel his ball didn’t move, and I feel like he did nothing to affect the stroke.”

One thing’s for sure, this certainly won’t be our last encounter with Rule 8.1.

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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