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If you’ve never heard of the PGA’s “dangerous situations” rule, that’s OK. Few fans have, and 26-year-old pro Talor Gooch had only a passing knowledge about it — until April’s Zurich Classic in New Orleans.
That’s when he — and golf fans — got very familiar with the little-used rule, creating a viral moment for Gooch, three grumpy alligators and a few poor rakes.
Here’s a two-minute oral history of golf’s craziest par of the year.
TALOR GOOCH: I thought about alligators before the tournament, but you don’t expect to have any actual encounters.
MICHAEL DEMOCKER, TIMES-PICAYUNE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’ve shot that tournament for about 15 years, and the alligators have always been a fixture. On the first day, I got the requisite shots of the likely contender golfers, then I prayed for gator drama. I got my wish that afternoon.
GOOCH: We were on the last hole. After I hit my tee shot, I knew I had a tough lie down near the water. When I got up there, my ball was within arm’s reach of three gators. A few other golfers came over, and we were trying to figure out how to get the gators to move. Then Chesson Hadley, who was in the group ahead of us, said, “I got this.”
CHESSON HADLEY: I just wanted to be the hero. I’m no reptile tamer, but I thought if I got one to go back in the lake, the others would follow. I grabbed a rake and went for it.
ANDREW LANDRY, GOOCH’S PLAYING PARTNER THAT DAY: He scared two of them down to the water, but they immediately turned around and got really close to the shore, like they were in attack mode.
GOOCH: My caddie, Malcolm Baker, is Australian, and he always gives me crap about how U.S. wildlife is much more tame. So I said to him, “You should be able to save me from these things, right? Isn’t that what I pay you for?”
MALCOLM BAKER: Sorry, they were very threatening. We all cowered a safe distance away.
HADLEY: I hit the third one with a rake, and he just turned around. I did it again, and he started hissing at me. That’s when my adventure ended. I was happy to go 2-for-3.
GOOCH: We called over a PGA official to see if we could take a drop. I knew there was a rule where you can get relieved from dangerous animals or fire ants. He asked if we tried to get the last gator to move, and we said, “Yes, but now he’s frustrated with us.” That’s when the rules official tossed a bunker rake at the gator.
DEMOCKER: The gator promptly ate the rake, resulting in the greatest sports photo I will ever shoot. The official then threw an umbrella at the alligator, which only had the effect of showing that nothing was learned from the rake-flinging.
GOOCH: We eventually were able to take a drop about 10 yards away, but it was a new ball — I left the original with the gator. I ended up making par, and then it blew up on Twitter and Instagram. Now I just think about Happy Gilmore and what happened to Chubbs. I’m just glad I didn’t lose a hand!
— Michael DeMocker (@MichaelDeMocker) April 27, 2018