How Jordan Spieth viewed Rory McIlroy’s ‘really tricky’ drops

Jordan Spieth speaks to the media at the Players with an image of him and Rory McIlroy discussing a drop.

Jordan Spieth shared his point of view on Rory McIlroy's drops.

Getty Images/ESPN+

While Wyndham Clark tried to steal the show Friday with his second-straight 65 to take a four-shot lead at the Players Championship, the talk of the tournament was still a Rory McIlroy drop.

Or drops, that is.

A more than eight-minute exchange between McIlroy, his playing partners, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland, and officials on the 7th hole (their 16th of the day) during the first round made multiple headlines Thursday. This also followed a similar — but not as lengthy — exchange after McIlroy rinsed his tee shot on the 18th earlier in the round.

GOLF’s Alan Bastable wonderfully retold the exchanges on Nos. 18 and 7 here and the PGA Tour shared a clip of what went down on 7 below.

Toward the 2:30 mark in the clip, as Spieth starts to walk into the conversation that initially started between Hovland and McIlroy to determine if McIlroy’s tee ball had bounced above or below a penalty area boundary before finding the lake left of the fairway, things seem to get a little testy.

“Everyone that I’m hearing that had eyes on it … is saying they’re 100 percent certain it landed below the line,” Spieth said.

McIlroy seemed agitated at that moment.

“Who’s everybody, Jordan?” he said. “Who are you talking about?”

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Tensions didn’t seem to last too long as the group eventually came to a consensus that McIlroy’s drop location was comfortable for all involved. He left his third shot, after the drop, just in front of the green, but failed to get up and down and made double. He finished with a birdie at 9 to cap a 65 and tie for the first-round lead. Friday was less stellar though, as he posted a one-over 73 to fall eight shots back of Clark.

McIlroy said after the round he felt since no one knew exactly where his ball last crossed the penalty area line, he was being “conservative” with his placement.

The Rules of Golf say, “If the point where a ball last crossed the edge of a penalty area is not known, a player must use their reasonable judgment to determine the reference point.”

McIlroy also added that he believed Spieth was “trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing.”

Spieth and Hovland did not speak to the media Thursday after they shot 74 and 73, respectively. But, even after another over-par round Friday, which saw him miss the cut, Spieth was brought into the press area to give his side of Thursday’s events. He answered four questions on it.

“I thought it ended up in a good spot,” Spieth said. “I only walked over there because I thought he had dropped it, and then he was questioning where he was dropping it. So I was just trying to make sure he didn’t play it and everyone was good. I was good with the spot he was choosing.

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“Then I was just listening to the conversation of Rory and Viktor, and Rory had said, I think it’s: ‘We think it crossed up there, could have been back there, so this seems like somewhere in between.’ But then that sounds like something you probably should verify with a rules official, and then he did, and it was all good.”

When prompted that McIlroy seemed to state that there were no hard feelings between himself and Spieth, Spieth shook his head, smiled and said he wasn’t sure why he was brought in for questions. Players missing the cut aren’t often called to the media center to answer questions and they are under no obligation to do so even if they are asked.

However, Spieth continued and said similar conversations were probably going on all over the course this week, given the number and placement of penalty areas at TPC Sawgrass. He also said his interjection had nothing to do with the earlier situation on the 18th hole.

“Every situation like that is their own. They’re not like the same shots by any means,” Spieth said. “Look, I think all anybody wants is for you to put the ball where it should go, and in our sport, you just get — especially on a golf course like this or last week — you get some situations where it can be really tricky on knowing for sure. You normally err on the safe side and then you pick where you’re virtually certain where it did cross, and I think that’s what Rory chose both times.”

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