Having hooked his tee shot on the par 5 15th hole, during the first round of the 2016 RBC Heritage, Camilo Villegas found his ball buried in some pine straw near to the base of a tree. In his opinion, his ball was embedded entitling him to free relief.
Presumably, there was a Local Rule permitting relief for a ball that was embedded through the green, which I understand is standard for all US PGA tour events. Fortunately, he called an official, just to be sure. The official ruled that Villegas’ ball was not embedded, as it did not break the earth and was merely buried in loose pine straw. Villegas clearly did not like this ruling and asked for a second opinion from another official.
Surprise, surprise, the second official agreed with the ruling of the first official and Villegas was forced to play the ball as it lay. 25-2/0.5 clarifies when a ball is embedded in ground. The Rule only permits relief from a closely mown area through the green. A Local Rule in Appendix l, states that a player may not take relief if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely-mown. A ball is deemed to be embedded in the ground only if:
• The impact of the ball landing has created a pitch-mark in the ground,
• The ball is in its own pitch-mark, and
• Part of the ball is below the level of the ground. Provided that these three requirements are met, a ball does not necessarily have to touch the soil to be considered embedded (grass, loose impediments or the like may intervene between the ball and the soil).