‘Disgrace’: Fans Left Triggered as ‘Embarrassing’ Rules Controversy Takes Over Hong Kong Open

Published 11/12/2023, 6:10 AM EST

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via Reuters

Imagine this. You are on the cusp of victory, leading in the final round. You take your tee shot at the 16th hole, and the ball lands in … the thick undergrowth outside the greens. Taking a look, you see that the ball is nearly invisible inside the bush. Now, you are puzzled about whether to take a penalty or to take your chances.

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In the recently concluded Hong Kong Open, the leader on the 16th hole was faced with a dilemma. But his next decisions shocked many, including his playing partners, who were visibly unhappy about the entire fiasco. Moments later, when the clip went up on the internet, the bizarre scenario left fans baffled and outraged.

What caused the controversy at the Hong Kong Open?


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On the final day, Thai golfer Phachara Khongwatmai faced a tough decision after his tee shot landed in thick bushes. The world no. 231 was seen in a debate with fellow golfers Cameron Smith and New Zealand pro Ben Campbell. Both of them protested the time wasted.

Eventually, a rules official was brought on to assess the situation and find a way forward. The Thai golfer stepped into the bush and picked up a branch. So far, so good. Trouble started when they noticed that the branch might be connected to the vine.


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Smith and the eventual winner Campbell didn’t like the Thai golfer’s treatment of the natural area. The 24-year-old Thai pro was eventually compelled to take a penalty and finish with a double-bogey six. That also meant he squandered his one-shot lead, capitalizing on which the New Zealander netted his biggest career victory this season, edging past LIV Golf Pro Cameron Smith.

But as the clip circulated on social media, Netizens were split on what should have been the right decision. Some sided with Cameron Smith, while a tiny few didn’t see anything wrong with it.

How to Watch Your Favorite LIV Golfers in Action at the 2023 Hong Kong Open: Location, Tickets Info, and More

The Internet goes berserk over the trouble at the event

The branch they were moving was dead, for sure. But from Smith and Campbell’s reaction, it looked like the branch was intertwined with the vine. And that is exactly what this fan pointed out!

Did the ball move as well while they were moving the bushes? The camera angle doesn’t provide any minute details. But like this fan, one can’t deny the possibility, as the bush was apparently connected with the undergrowth.

The fact that it took fifteen minutes for them to figure out the shot didn’t sit well with many. Some feel he got away with a very minor penalty for the disgraceful act.

The Thai golfer had the option of taking a drop in this case. Some fans feel that would have made it much easier.

A fan pointed out that a rule official was present when this happened. Both players were protesting it, and at one point, Cambell quipped that maybe they needed to bring in another rule official.


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As per one fan, this move was a very common practice in golf in Thailand. In the Southeast Asian nation, the female caddies clear the way for the golfer to take shots in troubling situations like this.


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What do you think Khongwatmai should have done? Is his action justified, and more importantly, was the penalty proportional? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya


One take at a time

Parnab is a budding golf writer at Essentially Sports. He is keen on constantly exploring his deep-rooted love for golf through his long-time passion for writing. With a strong knack for storytelling and experience in SEO content writing, he brings a unique blend of fluent writing and technical expertise.
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Edited by:

Sheldon Pereira




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