The greens on the PGA Tour can get rolling pretty quickly. For Jordan Spieth and his trusty rusty Scotty Cameron 009 Prototype putter, that slick surface can cause his club to slide when the greens get extra slippery. As a result, Spieth liked to wet the bottom of his putter, either with his fingers or a wet towel, in order to gain more traction with the bottom of the club. But, is that legal?
During the third round of the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship at Doral, the greens were getting slick and Spieth called over a rules official to check on the legality of wetting the putter in order to create stability. The official was stumped. Although Spieth said he never resorted to wetting the bottom of the putter in competition, he wanted to know if he could do so legally under the Rules of Golf.
This is what he found out, via GolfChannel.com:
“I’ve spoken to commentators, players and nobody knew the answer if you can do it,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was legal so I’ve never done it on the golf course [during a tournament round], so I asked an official once I knew the course was like that [on Saturday].”
Spieth approached a rules official on the third hole at Doral with the question, “He asked me what my intentions were and I told him to make it easier to set the putter down,” he said.
After a review of the question by the rules staff, the answer came back to Spieth on the eighth hole.
“It was a split on the decision,” he said. “So they called the [U.S. Golf Association] and he said that the USGA was going to talk about it further but for now we’re going to rule that you cannot do it.”
Playing it on the safe side, Spieth said he refrained from wetting the putter until he received an official ruling, which he did prior to the Masters.
“We have definitive position that is held by both the USGA and the R&A that this is a breach of Rule 4-2a for purposely changing the playing characteristics of a club during the round,” senior director of Rules of Golf & Amateur Status Thomas Pagel told GOLF.com. “This was confirmed in the days following the question that was raised by Jordan.”
Here’s what Rule 4-2a states:
4-2. Playing Characteristics Changed and Foreign Material
a. Playing Characteristics Changed
During a stipulated round, the playing characteristics of a club must not be purposely changed by adjustment or by any other means.
Since Spieth didn’t make an adjustment to his club, he did not incur a penalty, but he must be careful going forward. Slick greens are a part of the deal on the PGA Tour and his smooth-soled putter will only get more slippery as it wears further.