Jordan Spieth at Center of Latest Major Rules Controversy

July 29, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Another day, another major championship rules kerfuffle.

Jordan Spieth shot a solid second-round 67 at the 98th PGA Championship at hot Baltusrol on Friday, but all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was a puddle on the gravel path to the right of the seventh fairway, and whether Spieth was stepping in it.

“It was no problem,” Spieth told reporters afterward.

The trouble began when Spieth missed the seventh fairway, on his 16th hole of the day, wide right. His ball wound up in a puddle, and he conferenced with a PGA rules official. To take relief from both the puddle and the cart path, he’d have wound up dropping in a pine tree, which he obviously didn’t want. So he took relief from only the casual water. He took a drop. He took another drop. He finally got to place the ball.

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After the lengthy deliberation, which took 15 minutes as playing partners Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson waited up ahead, Spieth ended up with a clean lie on the gravel path and hooked his second around the stand of trees on the way to making bogey.

It seemed like a long way to make 5, but a screen grab of his second shot seemed to show his left foot was still in the puddle. That would mean he didn’t take “complete relief,” as per the wording of Rule 24-2, which would’ve meant a one-stroke penalty.

After doing a TV interview with Fred Albers in which he said, “Ultimately, I still ended up playing with my toe in the water.” Spieth told writers his foot “wasn’t resting in it because it was on the cart path and [the puddle] 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.”

As of 3:15 p.m. ET the PGA of America had not assessed a penalty on Spieth, who was three shots behind clubhouse leader Henrik Stenson (67).

“I trust my rules official there,” Spieth said after the latest rules dustup involving high-definition TV and endless replays, which comes on the heels of much-discussed rulings at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open earlier this summer. “I would have never hit if I was not told it was okay by a rules official. He told me it was fine.”

The PGA of America issued a statement of explanation, invoking 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.”

Translation: no penalty.