Jordan Spieth is not pleased with one of the new rule changes that went into effect in 2019. To make matters worse, it nearly cost him a penalty on his first drop of the year. Thanks to a quick-acting rules official, Spieth escaped the situation penalty-free.
On Thursday, Spieth was playing the 15th hole during the first round of the 2019 Sony Open in Hawaii when his ball came to rest on or near a sprinkler head. Jordan usually knows the rules without having to ask, as any self-respecting three-time major winner should. Knowing he could take relief from the sprinkler legally via a free drop, Spieth picked up his ball and extended his arm at shoulder-height to make his drop.
That’s the problem.
Among the many rule changes agreed to by the USGA and R&A and enacted on January 1st was a change to the drop rule. Previously, players were required to make a drop from shoulder height, as Spieth began to do on Thursday. But the new rule states that players must drop from knee height.
Fortunately for Jordan, the PGA Tour’s head rules honcho Slugger White was standing nearby. As Spieth extended his arms, White reportedly uttered, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” and moved in to stop the Tour star from committing a high-profile and potentially embarrassing rules violation.
After White’s intervention, Spieth started over, this time dropping his ball properly from knee height. Had he made the incorrect drop, he could have re-dropped it properly without penalty. But if he made the drop from shoulder height and played his shot without correcting it, he would have received a one-stroke penalty.
You can see a photo of the moment below.
Fantastic. Spieth goes for his first drop of the year, from a sprinkler head, holds the ball out shoulder height and Slugger White jumps in with a “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Eventually got it right. pic.twitter.com/WKGwJTWAKR
— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) January 10, 2019
Ironically, Spieth publicly lamented this very rule just two days ago during his pre-tournament press conference at the Sony, calling the new rule ‘a frustrating asterisk.’
“You drop it knee height, but like, what’s the advantage of dropping it shoulder height?” Spieth said. “It’s actually probably a disadvantage, so why can’t you still do that? You should be able to drop it from shoulder to knee height in my opinion. It doesn’t do any good and honestly it’s like, a frustrating asterisk that I have to re-pick it up and re-drop from your knee.”
It’s a little surprising he forgot the new rule given his public remarks about it, but he isn’t the only Tour pro who finds fault in the rule. Bryson DeChambeau called the drop rule change ‘a bit absurd’ at last week’s Tournament of Champions.