The second day’s play of the 141st Open Championship saw several players have difficulties with casual water and in particular, casual water in bunkers.
A player is entitled to free relief from casual water in a bunker if his ball lies in the casual water, his intended stance is in the casual water or his intended swing is interfered with by the casual water.
On Friday, both Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy had to consider their options for relief from casual water when they found the sand on the 15th and 17th holes respectively.
In taking free relief, the “nearest point of relief” must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker, within one club-length of this nearest point of relief.
If complete relief is impossible, a player is entitled to take “maximum available relief” in the bunker and drop the ball as near as possible to that point.
Alternatively, under penalty of one stroke, a player may drop out of the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly in line with the hole.
McIlroy chose to take free relief within the fairway bunker at the 17th and dropped the ball within a club-length of the nearest point of relief before playing out and then onto the green.
However, Bradley chose to play his ball as it lay in the greenside bunker at the 15th hole, despite the interference from the casual water. Although a ball may lie in casual water, a player does not have to take relief from casual water in a bunker and may instead elect to play the ball as it lies.
Bradley may have decided to do this for a number of reasons. As the sand was damp, the ball may have plugged in the sand when dropped or the dropping area may have been close to the face or edge of the bunker leaving the player with a much more difficult stroke. Consequently, choosing not to take relief and play the ball from its original lie can be the best option in these circumstances.
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