SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — When Bubba Watson and a by-the-numbers rules official collide, you expect fireworks. You just don’t expect those fireworks to be over whether or not ants are burrowing animals.
An amateur entomology discussion broke out on Sunday afternoon at the PGA Championship on the fifth hole after Watson missed the fairway. His ball found what appeared to be an anthill, and Watson sought out the nearest official in hopes of getting a free drop. After a conversation with the rules committee, the official delivered the verdict: play it as it lies.
Which would be fine, except that Bubba contended that this shot fell under the USGA’s Rule 25-1b: Relief from Abnormal Ground Conditions. Burrowing animals make for “abnormal” conditions, hence the discussion of whether or not an anthill was created by “burrowing” animals. You can watch the discussion above; here’s a transcription:
Official: It’s not fire ants or anything so there’s no relief from them. That’s basically a loose impediment.
Watson: OK, but I have a question for you. Since the animal … it is an animal, you agree with that? It’s burrowing, it’s digging a hole. So how would it not be? It’s either an ant bed or it’s an animal digging hole. It’s either one or the other. It can’t be both.
Official: They’re not [classified] as a burrowing animal.
Watson: So even though they dig in the ground, they’re not considering burrowing?
Watson: Ok, so they’re tunnelmaking. That’s what we’re calling them this week. I mean, the grass is a loose impediment. No, I got you. So if some guy was allergic to ants and he got an ant on him, you could care less?
Official: It’s only if it’s the dangerous ants. You know like the fire biting ones?
Watson: Right. It’s all good. Thank you so much.
After getting clarification, Watson addressed his ball and …
As it turned out, Watson was just fine. He ended up birdieing the hole before eagling the sixth, part of an up-and-down front nine that also included three bogeys. Plus, we learned that the PGA is afraid of fire ants but not the garden-variety crawling ones. Good to know.
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