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Wyndham Clark absolved of rules violation at Arnold Palmer Invitational, but not everyone agrees

ORLANDO – Wyndham Clark finds himself in the thick of the hunt for the Arnold Palmer Invitational title on Sunday and also in the thick of a rules controversy.

Clark was tied for the lead playing the 18th hole of the third round on Saturday at Bay Hill Club & Lodge when he fanned his tee shot into the right rough. Clark punched out to the fairway, but in doing so he forcefully placed his club behind the ball several times, even having his caddie clean the face of the club before hitting his shot. Video evidence brought into question whether the ball moved, which would have resulted in a one-stroke penalty.

“He need to be more careful,” said Luke Donald, serving as an analyst this week on NBC’s broadcast.

The network didn’t waste time addressing the matter, calling in PGA Tour rules official Mark Dusbabek, who told NBC’s Dan Hicks, “That makes my heart flutter as well.” Dusbabek did an admirable job breaking down the Rules of Golf regarding ball movement, which say, “If the ball only wobbles (sometimes referred to as oscillating) and stays on or returns to its original spot, the ball has not moved.”

“When I watch the tape, it looks like it comes back,” Dusbabek said.

As for the whether Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion, tried to improve his lie, Dusbabek argued there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that Clark had changed the conditions of the shot.

“A player is allowed to ground his club with the weight of the club against the ground. That’s basically what he’s doing right there,” he said, concluding, “I feel his ball didn’t move and he did nothing to affect his stroke.”

According to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, Clark confirmed that he had a conversation after the round with API’s chief referee Ken Tackett and that Scottie Scheffler, who played in the same pairing and signed Clark’s card, was involved in that discussion. Tackett told Lewis that the rules committee voted unanimously that Clark’s actions didn’t deserve to be penalized. Clark, who went on to make a bogey at 18 that dropped him back to 8 under and one stroke back of the lead heading into the final round after a 1-under 71, wasn’t asked about the potential rules infraction during his post-round press conference but Euro Sport tracked him down later.

“I’m not cheating or anything like that or trying to improve my lie,” Clark said. “Obviously they zoom in, and it makes it look worse. We all talked about it and Scottie and the rules official didn’t think it moved, so fortunately that didn’t happen.”

While stating that he wasn’t claiming there was intent on Clark’s part, Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee disagreed with the ruling, and during the post-game show Golf Channel drew a circle around the the golf ball to indicate that it had in fact moved.

“By the way, I don’t need to see video evidence. I saw it live and I knew the ball moved,” Chamblee said. “Why was he putting his club into the ground so forcibly. Why he did that is beyond me?

“You begin to wonder, what does a Tour player have to do to get a penalty?” Chamblee added. “I think he should have been penalized.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek