enhance
In-Depth-Articles

Rules: Jordan Spieth's Ryder Cup confusion

THE end of Jordan Spieth's Sunday singles match at the Ryder Cup included an interesting ruling on the 16th hole.

MY congratulations to the excellent USA team who were the deserving winners of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

The overall match result was almost assured by the time that Jordan Spieth hooked his ball into the water hazard on the par-5 16th hole.

His ball came to rest at the water’s edge, but presumably in a position where he thought that he could make a stroke at it.

The fact that he was 2-down to his opponent, Henrik Stenson, obviously played a part in his decision to remove his shoes and socks to prepare for an unlikely stroke from the water onto the putting green.

But as he took up his stance with one foot in the water, he saw his ball move deeper into the murky water.

He wasn’t sure about the ruling, so he called over European Tour Rules official, Jose Zamaro.

ALVARO QUIROS' STRANGE RANGE MISHAP:

Surprisingly, he was not confident enough to give a definitive ruling, even after consulting his Rules book, and had to call in the details of the situation to the senior Rules Official for the competition.

He then passed on the ruling to Jordan that he had incurred a penalty of one stroke, under Rule 18-2, for causing his ball to move while taking his stance.

Even with this penalty it was still possible, if highly unlikely, that he could have holed out with his next stroke for 4, but perhaps wisely, he said, "It’s done now, it’s over" and conceded the hole to Henrik, thus losing the match 3 and 2.

MATT GREENS HELPS YOUR STABILITY AND ROTATION:

Obviously, I cannot know what was confusing to Jordan Spieth and the official, Jose Zamaro, about the Rules situation, but I am guessing that they may have been unsure about whether Rule 13-4 or Rule 14-6 could have been applicable in the circumstances. Here is my assessment of the situation;

 •    Decision 13-4/13: If a player accidentally moves a loose impediment in a hazard (e.g. a stone) there is no penalty, provided the loose impediment was not moved in making the backswing and the lie of the ball or area of the intended stance or swing was not improved. This was not relevant to the Spieth incident.

•    Rule 14-6: If a ball is moving in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, make a stroke at the moving ball. This was not relevant to the Spieth incident.

•    Rule 18-2: If a player causes their ball to move they incur a penalty of one stroke and the ball must be replaced. This applies whether the ball lies in a water hazard, or not. Note that there seven exceptions to this Rule, but none that was relevant to the Spieth incident.

Of course, it is possible that a ball could be moved by the natural flow of water, but in this circumstance it was clear that it was the placing of Jordan’s foot at the water’s edge that caused his ball to move.

Footnote 1: On 31st August this year Associated Press reported that Jordan Spieth recalled getting a Rules of Golf book at a junior tournament with instructions to keep it in his bag for quick reference. "I never opened it", he said.

Footnote 2: Jordan Spieth is reported to have earned $147.5 million since 2012 (reference: Money Nation), so he may not think that it is necessary for him to spend time studying the Rules book, but perhaps he should employ a caddie that does!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

15 Barry Rhodes & Claret Jug

Barry is the author of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf' (including the January 2016 changes), and '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf (newly published in January 2016).

He believes that these books provide the easiest and most enjoyable way to absorb and understand the Rules. Barry is an enthusiastic, high handicap golfer, resident in Dublin, Ireland, who developed an interest, then a fascination, and now an obsession with the Rules of Golf.

Barry’s relationship with the Rules began in 2000 with his participation in the inter-club Rules of Golf quiz competitions, organised by the Royal & Ancient for Golf Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland.

This then led to him writing articles, running quizzes, and delivering presentations on the Rules at a variety of golf clubs and corporate functions.

In March 2008, Barry became the first person to achieve a 100% correct mark on the public Advanced Rules of Golf Course examination, run by the PGA in their headquarters at The Belfry, West Midlands, UK, and in April 2015, Barry received a ‘Pass with Distinction’ in the R&A’s Level 3, Tournament Administrators and Referees School examination, the highest certification awarded.

Barry is author of the eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’. To purchase the eBook, click here.

He writes a weekly web blog, containing interesting content for anyone who wishes to improve their knowledge and understanding of the Rules of Golf. To visit the blog, click here.

Barry Rhodes