There’s already been one strange rules issue at the Presidents Cup, why not another!
Jordan Spieth was the one caught in the trap this time. Spieth and Patrick Reed are competing in a heated Saturday four-ball match against Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen.
The American pair entered Liberty National’s par-4 12th all square in the match, and it appeared that the match might move 1 up in the Internationals’ favor as Day was already in with a conceded birdie and Reed’s and Spieth’s birdie putts were over 10 feet.
But a controversial ruling ensured the Internationals would win the hole.
Oosthuizen had an eagle putt from beyond the green that was racing well past the hole. The ball continued to scurry several feet by the cup, but with Day already in with birdie, Oosthuizen’s ball no longer mattered on the hole at that point.
In this line of thinking, Spieth picked up the ball with his putter while it was still in motion.
(Spieth also would note that he could hear fans telling the ball to keep going and wanted “just to shut everybody up.”)
Pretty mundane, right? Hardly.
Even though the ball was well past the hole and the Internationals were already in with birdie, Spieth is not allowed to touch an opponent’s golf ball still in motion here.
Such an action is deemed as a violation of Rule 1-2.
That rule says a player “must not take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play.” If a player does breach the rule, he is seen as illicitly “exerting influence” on the ball. In match play, the penalty for this is loss of hole.
As Spieth was deemed to have breached Rule 1-2 in this manner, he was thus disqualified from playing the rest of the hole.
Spieth still had a 12-footer that could’ve halved No. 12, but he was not allowed to putt it as he was disqualified from the hole.
The Internationals thus won the hole and moved 1 up. This certainly didn’t go down well on social media.
And everybody in the group, especially Spieth, was baffled. The whole situation led to this heated discussion (even U.S. assistant captain Tiger Woods got involved!) that ultimately still ended in a Spieth penalty.
While the International pair tried to argue in favor of no penalty, the plea ultimately fell on deaf ears.
But Day and Oosthuizen still wished to compromise.
Nick Price, the Internationals’ captain, revealed following the round that after the duo knew the penalty would stand, they tried to give the Americans a hole right back.
“We had a little bit of a talk there, and then Louis (Oosthuizen) said to me, ‘We’re just going to concede the next hole then,’ which I thought was a really sportsman-like gesture,” Price said.
If the concession had been accepted, it would’ve brought the match all square through 13 holes. While the Internationals were sincere, the concession never went through. Why? Spieth didn’t think that would be fair to the opponent.
“Jordan wouldn’t have anything of it,” Price said. “He said, ‘No, we’ll play the next hole as it is.’ ”
So the urge to make things right and fair was at least there on both sides.
In the end, the penalty would not affect the final outcome of the match. Spieth and Reed won 15, 16 and 17 to capture a 2-and-1 victory.
Maybe the Internationals couldn’t capitalize on this penalty, but at least their consciences are clean.