SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Jordan Spieth may find himself embroiled in a rules controversy -- they're the best kind in golf -- over a drop he took on the seventh hole on Friday's second round of the 2016 PGA Championship.
Spieth's tee shot sailed way right on the converted par 5, landing in a puddle on the cart path. The two-time major winner was entitled to relief from the puddle, as it is casual water. However, with trees blocking Spieth's potential hook shot back into the fairway, the 23-year-old wanted to use the rules of golf to his advantage. He took his clublength under the Rules of Golf, laying it out toward another water-filled pothole on the path, but aiming specifically for the back edge. Why? Two reasons:
- He was hoping to take a drop there, where the rocks were slightly piled up so he could get the ball in the air, over the tree and on the green.
- He was hoping to drop it on the edge of the puddle and it bound forward until the official told him he could place the ball where it landed, giving him a perfect lie.
It took a while, but Spieth got what he wanted. The problem is that Spieth may not have taken complete relief from the water. He left foot touches the pond slightly as he's hitting his second shot, which is not considered complete relief.
Here's what Rule 25-1b of the Rules of Golf says Spieth has to do in this situation:
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Except when the ball is in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, a player may take relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition as follows:
(i) Through the Green: If the ball lies through the green, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief must not be in a hazard or on a putting green. When the ball is dropped within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, the ball must first strike a part of the course at a spot that avoids interference by the condition and is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
Spieth did all of those things, so he's right, and the PGA of America told him there would be no penalty.
After the round, Spieth explained the situation and his goals.
"I originally could have taken relief from the path," he said. "My drop would have been to the left, and that would have caused me to have little to know shot. So I wanted all my options, one of my options was you can take relief from the causal water without taking relief from the path. Because he asked me, hey, if there were no casual water on the cart path, what would you do here? I said I would for sure play it. I would play it off the path."
As for those concerned about Spieth's feet touching the water, the world No. 3 didn't know if it mattered or not, but he said his shoes weren't getting wet.
"I was just altering the stance with a toe that was up," he said. "It wasn't resting in it because it was on the cart path and it was dug down. I say cart path, it's that gravel. So the waters dip down. So my toe wasn't on the water, I don't know if it matters or not, but it was certainly hovering over it. It was a different angle in flight at the right of the green that he said was appropriate. So I trust my rules official there."