Jordan Spieth conjured the spirit of Seve with favourable drop
American correctly used the rules to his advantage in dropping on practice ground
Jordan Spieth hits his third shot from the practice range on the 13th hole during the final round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
The comparisons are inevitable in so many ways, and not just because Jordan Spieth’s feats of escapology bears suitable evaluation with those of the legendary Seve Ballesteros: where the Spaniard won his maiden Open championship from a car park at Royal Lytham &St Annes in 1979, Spieth’s first Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale was claimed from what effectively was a trailer park.
In actual fact, the defining moment of Spieth’s win in the 146th Open championship came after taking line-of-sight relief from behind a Titleist equipment tour truck which enabled him to go on to the practice range to play his approach to the 13th.
But the question is: should the practice ground have been out-of-bounds?
On the vast majority of courses, the practice area is one of the first places to be dotted with white stakes primarily for health and safety considerations.
That’s why so many golfers – club members, society members and casual players alike – would have scratched their heads in wonderment as Spieth retraced his steps from the sand hills where he’d taken an unplayable penalty drop all the way back to the practice ground where he again utilised the rules of golf to his advantage, as he was entitled to do.
That the practice ground at Royal Birkdale was not considered out-of-bounds can, perhaps, be put down to the fact that it was so far away from play that nobody – not even the R&A who dot every i and cross every t twice over – could have envisaged any player would ever find themselves over there.
Indeed, in the days running up to the start of the championship, a query from Jason Day’s caddie about whether it was permissible for players’ to hit their drives down the 10th when playing the ninth hole led to internal out-of-bounds being hastily implemented so that it wouldn’t happen.
So, if the R&A ever thought that anyone would be playing from the practice ground to the 13th green – especially given that the range would have been busy with players practising, certainly on Thursday and Friday – then the likelihood is that it would have been out-of-bounds.
But it wasn’t, and Spieth did ask the question of referee JR Jones, a respected official, and he used the answer to his benefit. That he escaped with a bogey on the 13th, when disaster of all kinds threatened, was down to what happened after taking that penalty drop and then relief.
You could imagine that the late, great Ballesteros – a player prone to using legally using the rules to his advantage – would have smiled down from the fairways above and nodded in approval.