Jordan Spieth played a solid round Friday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, producing a three-under-par 69, thanks not only to his good play, but knowledge of the Rules of Golf.
Teeing off on Bay Hill’s sturdy par-4 18th, Spieth hit a tee shot familiar to many—a low double-cross snap hook that careened toward the boundary fence on the left. “Probably one of the worst drives I’ve ever hit,” Spieth said afterward. “I was trying to play a head-high low draw to not have it run through, and I just got real steep and drop-kicky with it, and I actually hit the ground first. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that.”
Things got interesting when the ball came to rest in the grass just a few inches from the fence. Being the fence was an out-of-bounds barrier, there was not an option for free relief from the fence. Yet because the ball was so close to the fence, Spieth did have a reasonable chance to advance the ball left-handed. Doing so, however, would have him standing on a cart path, from which he would be entitled to relief. Allowable under the rules? You bet, says Rule 16, which notes relief cannot be granted “when interference exists only because you choose a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.” The left-handed swing clearly was reasonable.
Or as Spieth told Golf Channel after the round about his conversation with PGA Tour official John Mutch: “There’s that little space between the cart path and out of bounds, and I had no stance to hit it right-handed, but I had enough room to hit the shot left-handed to punch it out up the path and the rough. That would have been a better shot than taking an unplayable. … Given that I was standing on the cart path, I took left-handed relief on the other side and from there I’m allowed to play it any which way that I want to. I just asked a lot of questions and did what [Mutch is] telling me to do.”
“I had a chance to make a 4, made a 5, but don’t think I deserved to make a 4 there, to be honest,” said Spieth. “It was very lucky. I could have made 6 or 7.”
As we like to say, kids, the rules are your friend. Just ask Jordan.