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Hovland holds his ground in dispute over Berger drop

PONTE VEDRA BEACH (AP) – Some of the biggest drama on Monday at The Players Championship unfolded on the 16th hole, except it had nothing to do with the outcome.

Daniel Berger was 234 yards out on the par five when his fairway metal went right into the water, and he knew it when it was in flight. “Water ball,” he said.

That much was clear. Where it crossed the red hazard line became the question of debate. Berger thought it was fading near a red stake near the green.

Viktor Hovland and Joel Dahmen thought it last crossed land much further back. “I’m a little sceptical,” Hovland said.

“I’ve got it back here, as well,” Dahmen added.

Chief referee of The Players Gary Youngultimately said they would have to work it out.

Hovland was not comfortable with Berger dropping his golf ball too close to the green. He said after the round his duty was to protect the field.

Viktor Hovland of Norway plays his tee shot. PHOTO: AFP

The three players eventually settled on a compromise, some 97 yards from the hole.

“It’s wrong. This is a bad drop,” Berger said from the fairway. “I’ll drop it here if this is where you guys want me to drop. It’s a bad drop. It’s way too far back.”

None was a threat to win at that point. Berger was seven-under par and made bogey. Hovland was eight under – five shots behind – and made par.

“It’s not a fun conversation,” Hovland said after the round. “Daniel’s game is great, and I have massive respect for him as a player. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to protect the field and protect all the other guys. When you strongly believe in something, you kind of have to stand your ground.

“We try to keep it professional. It’s not like we’re trying to dog on Daniel. It’s just that’s what we believe, and he obviously felt strongly the other way.”

Berger told Golf Channel later Monday evening, “I felt strongly my ball crossed here; they felt strongly it didn’t.”

“I’m not upset about where I dropped,” Berger said. “I think it was 100 per cent the correct place to drop. But I thought it would have been a little further up. In the end, it was the right decision.”

Paul Casey had every reason to think momentum was on his side on the par-five 16th.

Cameron Smith had a two-shot lead but had missed the previous two fairways, and then hit a duck-hook into the pines that would make it tough to get back to the short grass. Casey then drilled his tee shot down the middle.