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Players Championship: Austin Eckroat sees putt finally drop, only to get penalized for overhanging ball rule

By Jack Bantock, CNN

(CNN) — An exhale of collective relief rippled around TPC Sawgrass as Austin Eckroat’s birdie putt finally abandoned its precarious position on the edge of the cup and dropped in. Yet the satisfaction would be short-lived.

The American left with a par on the 11th hole during the final round of The Players Championship in Florida on Sunday, as a rule relating to the length of time a ball can overhang the hole saw him hit with a one stroke penalty.

Eckroat, who won his first PGA Tour title at the Cognizant Classic earlier this month, had looked to have converted superbly from 20-feet, only for his ball to pause on the edge of the Stadium Course’s par-five 11th hole.

The world No.48 and playing partner Joel Dahmen were crouched over the ball, staring intently, when it finally fell in almost 40 seconds later. It sparked a roar from the onlooking crowd, but a more muted reaction from Eckroat, whose mind had perhaps already drifted to a section of the Rules of Golf.

Under rule 13.3a, a player is allowed “reasonable” time to reach the hole and 10 further seconds to wait and see if the ball drops in.

Eckroat’s birdie would have stood had his putt fallen during this time, but as it was classed as being “at rest”, an additional penalty stroke saw him card par for the hole.

The rule drew the ire of some fans responding to video of the incident posted by the PGA Tour on X. “Stupid rule,” replied Michael McEwen, deputy editor at golf site Bunkered.

A similar series of events at last year’s PGA Championship involving American Lee Hodges saw the tournament’s rules body issue a statement explaining the penalty.

There was no official statement from The Players rules committee for Eckroat’s incident as the penalty was “just the application of the rule,” a spokesperson for the PGA Tour told CNN.

The penalty compounded what had been a frustrating final round for Eckroat.

Having begun the day four-under par in tied-17th overall, two bogeys and a double bogey through his opening nine holes had dropped him back to even-par.

He signed off with a four-over 76, his worst round of the week after shooting 71, 69, and 68 across the first three days.

At 17-under par overall, world No.6 Xander Schauffele took a one shot lead into Sunday over reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark, with a $4.5 million winner’s purse to come for the winner of the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

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