Branden Grace found himself with a plugged lie in a bunker on the 13th hole during the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship yesterday, but was able to earn a free-drop sparking controversy.

After setting up to take the seemingly-impossible shot from the hazard, the South African-number-three began shuffling his feet before he hit material beneath the sand.

At this point Grace called in an official and, as ruling states that if a player is stood on any kind of artificial obstruction then they get relief, was given his free-drop in the bunker and out of the plugged lie.

Grace’s fortune has not come with criticism, though, as Sky Sports Golf Expert Wayne Riley has criticised the ruling.

“The ruling, for me, was just simply a little soft,” Riley said on skysports.com.

“Grace has suddenly gone from being plugged up the face and staring at a double bogey to having a 15-foot putt for par, which is a huge advantage.

“When you’re going into the bunker with a plugged lie, you can shuffle in there not rehearsing what you intend to do. It was only when Grace was ready to play and shuffling his feet that he noticed the netting,” he continued.

“How far do you go down there before you find the netting? It’s one of those contentious issues and something I felt strongly about when the ruling was given.”

Grace, however, has come out to defend the ruling. Although he did admit to Sky Sports that he was ‘fortunate’.

“I got a plugged lie.

“Fortunately for me, I had a ruling like this in China last year where when I took my stance, my feet were touching the material beneath the sand.

“I couldn’t really get the grip and kept on slipping, so knowing what happened in the past I asked the official. Fortunately for me, it worked out this time,” Grace finished.

The 29-year-old was able to walk away from the 13th with just a bogey and finished the day just two shots off the lead.

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