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Rules Junkie: Spieth’s Controversial Casual Water Drop

It wouldn’t be a 2016 major championship without a few rules complications. On Thursday, we had John Senden and the 10 Second Rule and on Friday at the PGA Championship we got a questionable drop from Jordan Spieth. 

After hooking his drive on the seventh hole, Spieth was entitled to multiple drop options under the rules, which included relief from the cart path as well as casual water. The lengthy process was explained in detail by Spieth following his round.

Now, we know the Rules of Golf can be complicated, but thankfully, the PGA of America, likely in fear of making the USGA look good, explained their ruling in an all-encompassing statement that cleared both Spieth and the official of any wrongdoing.

Jordan Spieth’s ball came to rest in casual water on an artificially surfaced path. He called for a Rules Official and Brad Gregory, former PGA of America Rules Chair, was present to provide help.

Jordan selected a club and demonstrated a swing and direction that he would have used, if there were no casual water present (Decision 24-2b/1). This stroke and direction was toward the hole. After going thru the relief procedure, the ball was in play on the artificially surfaced path and clear from his stance and swing for the direction and type of shot he originally chose to play. Once the ball was dropped and in play, Jordan had the option to select another type of stroke or another type of club to actually play the shot and he chose to play a stroke to the right of a tree in an attempt to try to hook the ball toward the green.

In this case, Jordan elected to play in a different direction of play based on Decision 20-2c/0.8. Jordan was entitled to either play the ball as it lay, even if his stance was still in the casual water or, he could have elected to take relief again from the casual water under this different type of stroke that he then elected to play.

Decision 24-2b/1

Determining “Nearest Point of Relief”

Q. The Note to the Definition of “Nearest Point of Relief” provides that the player should determine this point by using “the club with which he would have made his next stroke if the condition were not there to simulate the address position, direction of play and swing for such stroke.” May the player use any club, address position, direction of play or swing in determining the nearest point of relief?

A. No. In determining the nearest point of relief accurately it is recommended that the player use the club, address position, direction of play and swing (right or left-handed) that he would have used had the obstruction or condition not been there. For example, the player has interference from an immovable obstruction and, were it not for the obstruction, he would have used a right-handed stroke with a 4-iron to play the ball from its original position towards the green. To determine the nearest point of relief accurately, he should use a right-handed stroke with a 4-iron and the direction of play should be towards the green. See also Decisions 20-2c/0.7 and 20-2c/0.8.

Decision 20-2c/0.8

Player Takes Relief from an Area of Ground Under Repair; Whether Re-Drop Required if Condition Interferes for Stroke with Club Not Used to Determine “Nearest Point of Relief”

Q. A player finds his ball in heavy rough approximately 230 yards from the green. He selects a wedge to play his next shot and finds that his stance touches a line defining an area of ground under repair. He determines the nearest point of relief and drops the ball within one club-length of this point. The ball rolls into a good lie from where he believes he can play a 3-wood for his next stroke. If the player used a wedge for his next stroke he would not have interference from the ground under repair, but adopting a normal stance with the 3-wood, he again touches the ground under repair with his foot. Must the player re-drop his ball under Rule 20-2c?

A. No. The player proceeded in accordance with Rule 25-1b by determining his nearest point of relief using the club with which he expected to play his next stroke and he would only be required to re-drop the ball under Rule 20-2c if interference still existed for a stroke with this club – see analogous Decision 20-2c/0.7.

That was handled well. USGA, are you taking notes?

Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie or email your question to chris@swingbyswing.com and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.

Related Content: 

Rules Junkie: The 10 Second Rule

Rules Junkie: One Vs. Two Best-Ball At International Crown

Rules Junkie: How The USGA Made The DJ Decision And Why It Was Flawed

Rules Junkie: Penalty Costs Am A U.S. Open Berth

Rules Junkie Reader Question: Dew-Covered Sand On The Green

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