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August 1, 2017

The Rule that Allowed Spieth to Hit From the Range During the Open Championship

And you thought the range was just for practice?

BY: GARRETT JOHNSTON

What a wild ride on the 13th hole at last month’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. It was the back nine on Sunday, and Jordan Spieth was the co-leader in a major championship. After driving right of right, Spieth’s ball settled behind one of Birkdale’s large dunes. A search party ensued before he finally identified his ball tucked in thick patch of grass at the base of the sandy mini-mountain.

“There’s 500 people and we can’t find the ball, I’m thinking somebody can grab it,” Spieth’s caddy Michael Greller told SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio’s Inside the Ropes. “It was absolute chaos. Then out of right field we hear somebody yell, ‘there’s a ball on the other side of the dune’ and Jordan goes bouncing up there like a billy goat. I went back to the fairway because I didn’t think there was a ball.”

Indeed, that question and decision made a huge difference is Spieth’s chances of salvaging a decent score. He would go on of course to make an unlikely bogey, but let’s break down how he did it.

Indeed, that question and decision made a huge difference is Spieth’s chances of salvaging a decent score. He would go on of course to make an unlikely bogey, but let’s break down how he did it.

Spieth had three options under Rule 28 before he decided to drop using the line of sight rule.

He could have gone with stroke and distance (Rule 27-1) and gone back to the tee for his third shot; he could drop within two club-lengths of where his ball lay; and lastly he could have kept the ball in line with the target and drop as far back as he would like.

In selecting the third option, the problems were the large equipment trucks and the sand dune obstructing his view to the pin. The ruling was taking much longer than expected and it would ultimately take Spieth 30 minutes to complete the hole.

“The reason it took so long is (because) it was a tricky ruling,” Greller said. “We weren’t getting the number and the line, we were more waiting to make sure we got the ruling right.”

Rickman understood that Spieth was at a pivotal moment in the championship. “I know it took a little bit of time, but it was a pretty important moment in this championship,” Rickman said.

For clarity, Rickman further explained the ruling and ultimate drop by Spieth.

“So the unplayable ball drop took Jordan in the middle of these equipment trucks, so that is where his relief under the unplayable rule is,” Rickman said. “Because the trucks are not normally here we would call it a temporary immovable obstruction (TIO)…therefore, in addition to taking relief from the lie of the ball and the area of intended swing you get line of sight if that TIO is in your line of sight (Rule 24-2).

“And that is why as a second procedure, the line of sight relief takes us not nearer the hole, and we swing round on an arc (leaving him in the practice range),” Rickman said. “It was certainly a smart use of the rules. Under extreme pressure, he was thinking straight, he worked out that what he felt was the best option in conversation with the officials.”

Spieth hit his third shot short of the green, and then made a saucy up-and-down for bogey. One for the history books.

Following the chaos at 13, Spieth was Spieth-like down the stretch. He found his footing, nearly jarred his tee shot on No. 14, and went 5-under-par on his last five holes.

The fine play prompted the Johnny Miller to call it “one of the greatest finishing stretches I’ve ever seen.”

Could golf envision this only 17 months after Spieth’s collapse at Augusta? We didn’t see it coming, just like Spieth didn’t see the green when he struck a 3-iron from the practice range in the final round of a major.