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Tale of two drops: Why Valimaki didn't get a free drop like S.H. Kim did

Tale of two drops: Why Valimaki didn't get a free drop like S.H. Kim did

The two shots happened three days apart, but some people watching the Mexico Open couldn't help but notice the commonalities between Sami Valimaki's wayward drive on the 72nd hole that ended up nestled against a metal boundary fence and a provisional drive by S.H. Kim on the same hole Thursday that settled in a similar lie.

However, while Kim received a free drop, Valimaki did not – and Valimaki's penalty stroke effectively ended any chance of him catching playing competitor Jake Knapp, who went on to post a two-shot win over the runner-up Valimaki.

Here is the explanation from the PGA Tour rules committee:

"In Sami’s case, it was clearly unreasonable for him to play a stroke. The exception to Rule 16.1 applies."

Here's that verbiage: There is no relief under Rule 16.1 when playing the ball as it lies would be clearly unreasonable because of something from which the player is not allowed to take free relief (such as when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or when interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.

As for Kim, the committee said: "In S.H. Kim’s scenario, he could have played a sideways stroke on the other side of the fence, which is what he said he would do, therefore he was able to get free relief."

Rule 16.1 also states: This Rule does not give relief from movable obstructions (a different type of free relief is allowed under Rule 15.2a) or boundary objects or integral objects (no free relief is allowed).

But Kim's belief that he could've played a shot sideways – if he could have hopped the fence, of course – meant that the fence was not technically the obstruction but rather the sand, which a rules official was heard telling Valimaki during his drop, "We've got all this [sand] tied in as part of the same cart path obstruction all the way to the fence."

"This was done because of the inequities of the space available if a player had a playable stroke and cart path interference," the Tour rules committee later clarified. "Some places along that hole force a player to go to the grass and in 2022 we decided as a committee to keep it consistent for all players in the field if they had a playable stroke.

"In S.H.’s case, his ball was in a position that was playable and he had interference from the sandy area that was part of the obstruction. He got free relief form the obstruction, not the boundary fence."

Valimaki would've had more tree trouble on the other side of his fence to contend with than Kim, which explains the unreasonable nature of trying to play the shot that Kim said he wanted to.

Kim went on to take his free drop and then pump his next shot out of bounds as well. He eventually signed for a triple bogey on the par-5 18th hole and missed the cut the next day.