Rules: Spieth’s Penalty That Ended His Singles Match



Times were getting dire for Jordan Spieth on the back nine on Sunday in a Ryder Cup singles match versus Henrik Stenson. Two down with three to play, Spieth tried to reach the par-5 16 hole in two, but came up just short, leaving his ball half-way submerged under water. 

Needing to put the pressure on Stenson who had already safely reached the green, Spieth removed his shoes and socks and rolled up his pant legs. Attempting to take his stance in the water as a rules official looked on, Spieth caused his ball to move and fully submerge, a rule — 18-2 — that we’ve come to know as the Dustin Johnson rule. 

18-2. By Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment

Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player’s ball is in play, if

(i) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:

•causes the ball to move, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.

Spieth clearly caused the ball to move and would have had to replace the ball to its original position, then attempt to play the already-difficult shot again. He would have had to take the one stroke, played his fourth from the water and then holed out for five, meaning Stenson would have had to three-putt just to halve the hole.

Instead of taking on the very unlikely situation, Spieth chose to concede the hole, and therefore the match, to Stenson, who won 3&2. 

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