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Valimaki: 'I think I had a swing' from fence in Mexico

Valimaki: 'I think I had a swing' from fence in Mexico

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Looking back, Sami Valimaki believes he had a shot.

That’s what the 25-year-old Finnish pro said Tuesday from the driving range at PGA National, just a couple days removed from finishing runner-up at the Mexico Open, where he had to take a penalty drop on his final hole to end any chance of catching eventual winner Jake Knapp.

Valimaki’s drive ended up in a sandy lie against a metal boundary fence, and after consulting with a rules official, Valimaki took an unplayable and then received relief from the sand, an extension of the cart path.

“What the ref said was there’s no chance you can hit the ball, so that was it,” Valimaki said. “I mean, I totally understand. There weren’t many options.”

At the time, Valimaki was unaware of a similar situation on Thursday in which competitor S.H. Kim drove his ball up against the same fence. In Kim’s case, however, he argued that he could hop the fence and play the ball out sideways. A rules official agreed, and Kim then received the free relief from the sand, or cart path.

So, how come Valimaki didn’t get the same benefit?

“In Sami’s case, it was clearly unreasonable for him to play a stroke,” the PGA Tour rules committee told GolfChannel.com.

The exception to Rule 16.1 reads: 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.

The broadcast showed Valimaki’s ball tucked against the grilling of the fence, which extends out at a 45-degree angle at the top, toward out of bounds. On the other side of the fence appeared to be some tree trouble, too. In the moment, Valimaki was only concerned with not dropping any more shots. It didn’t even don on him, he said, that he could get free relief from the sand after his original drop, let alone free relief altogether.

“I feel like at that point when I saw the ball was there, and he was two shots ahead, all I thought was try and get second place,” Valimaki said. “The option [they gave me] was actually better than I thought.”

But now, Valimaki says, “I think I had a swing…”

“But the only way was hit full 9-iron, try and get down on the ball, and see how it’s going to go.”

But that was too risky.

In the end, Valimaki couldn't swing from the literal fences. Instead, he took his penalty and went on to save par. He finished solo second, two shots back of Knapp, and jumped to No. 35 in points while clinching himself a spot in next week’s signature event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.