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Yuan gets fortunate ruling despite losing ball in (?) suite

Yuan gets fortunate ruling despite losing ball in (?) suite

If Carl Yuan ends up qualifying for the next set of signature events, perhaps the difference will be a grandstand, a few fans and a final-hole ruling that went in Yuan’s favor Sunday at the Sony Open.

The situation occurred at the par-5 18th hole at Waialae Country Club. Yuan was standing in a fairway bunker, some 240 yards away from the hole and with a 3-wood in hand. Needing birdie to at least have a chance at the win, Yuan went for the green with his second shot, only he missed well right, prompting an immediate, “Fore right!” A television camera showed Yuan’s ball sailing toward a large, white hospitality suite lining the right side of the hole before it disappeared.

Even in slow motion, it was impossible to tell whether the ball had hit the tent’s roof or carried the structure entirely, though NBC’s announcer, Dan Hicks, initially said, “That went over the stands, I believe.”

NBC analyst Curt Byrum added, “There’s out of bounds over there if you hit it far enough to the right.”

Multiple replays were shown, and Hicks continued, “That cleared the top of the stands. … That thing was way long and right.”

With a rules official assisting him, Yuan began searching for his ball. Unable to find the ball, the official ruled that Yuan’s ball had gone into the suite rather than out of bounds – there is about 15 yards of grass between the tent and a boundary fence that separates the course from some residences.

Yuan received free relief from the temporary immovable obstruction, and he was able to drop about 45 yards from the hole.

During the ruling, Byrum added, “I think it stayed in bounds,” while Hicks remained skeptical: “I think it cleared there (the tent). I just never saw it come back. … It’s just really hard to tell.” One of Yuan’s playing competitors, Taylor Montgomery, vocally approved Yuan’s drop.

Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis later relayed a message from the PGA Tour’s chief referee, Ken Tackett. He said that Tackett, after “some conversations with folks in those suites,” determined with “virtual certainty” that the ball went into the hospitality area. “It was not a ricochet off the tent. … It went into the suites.”

Even with the fortunate break, though, Yuan was unable to make birdie, missing a 15-footer and settling for a par – and closing, 7-under 63 – that left him in a tie for fourth, a shot out of a three-man playoff.

Yuan wasn’t asked about the ruling, but he did speak of his aggressive mentality on Sunday. He holed birdie putts of 18 feet, 24 feet and 32 feet on the back nine after capping the front with an eagle from 9 feet at the par-5 ninth.

“I would say today was more free roll, that I know if I put up a good score, I can climb up the leaderboard,” said Yuan, who ended up keeping his full Tour card following Jon Rahm’s defection to LIV Golf, which bumped Yuan to No. 125 in points. “If I don't, not much difference. Just the first event of the season. Not like RSM, last event of the season, my job on the line.”

Now, Yuan is second in the first Swing 5 of the year. The top five point-earners from the Sony Open, American Express and Farmers Insurance Open get into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. While the Swing 5 for the Genesis Invitational two weeks after adds the WM Phoenix Open to the Sony, AmEx and Farmers aggregate.

“Definitely a solid start here in Hawaii for me, trying to stack up points over the next two weeks,” Yuan said. Same thing. Yeah, definitely try to get into those designated events like Genesis and Pebble.”