McIlroy, Hovland and Spieth Involved In Long Rules Debate At Players Championship

The three players were in long discussions over where Rory McIlroy's ball crossed the line into the water on the 7th hole at TPC Sawgrass

Screenshot of McIlroy, Spieth and Hovland in discussions over a ruling
(Image credit: PGA Tour)

There was some drama on Thursday morning in the featured group at TPC Sawgrass as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland were involved in a long discussion over where McIlroy's ball crossed into the water on the 7th hole (his 16th of the day).

It was the second time McIlroy had to take a drop after also pulling it left into the lake on the 18th, and the players couldn't seem to agree as to where was the right spot.

McIlroy believed that his ball bounced to the right of and above the red line first, and therefore pointing out where it crossed to be the position of his drop but Spieth walked over to say he was told by TV workers that it went straight into the water. 

Viktor Hovland said he thought it was "really close" and "couldn't say".

"Everyone that I'm hearing that had eyes on it, which again is not what matters, are saying they're 100% certain it landed below the line," Spieth said of what he heard from TV crews.

"I think my ball bounced above the red line but it's not definitive," McIlroy said to the rules official when he arrived.

A screenshot of a shotlink graphic on

McIlroy made double on the 7th after taking a drop

(Image credit:

The ruling took a good 10 minutes to sort out, with the three players, caddie, officials and even Sky Sports' Wayne 'Radar' Riley involved, whose name got brought up by Jordan Spieth after his opinion was asked on the 18th hole earlier in the day.

"We have no evidence so you guys have got to go with what you saw," the official said.

"There's a little bit of an atmosphere out here," Radar said at the end of hole after earlier saying he didn't know why his name was being brought up by Spieth.

"I think Jordan was just trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing. I mean, I was pretty sure that my ball had crossed where I was sort of dropping it. It's so hard, right, because there was no TV evidence. I was adamant," McIlroy said after signing for a seven-under-par 65.

"But I think, again, he was just trying to make sure that I was going to do the right thing. If anything, I was being conservative with it. I think at the end of the day we're all trying to protect ourselves, protect the field, as well. I wouldn't say it was needless. I think he was just trying to make sure that what happened was the right thing."

The PGA Tour later released the full video from the broadcast. See for yourself...

Watch the entire exchange:

Barstool Sports Journalist Dan Rapaport, who features in Netflix docuseries Full Swing, tweeted that the vibes in the group were "very strange."

McIlroy eventually dropped his ball and would go on to make a double bogey, dropping him back from eight-under-par back to minus-six.

It's the second time Viktor Hovland has been in a debate over where a ball crossed the line at TPC Sawgrass, after a frosty issue occurred with Daniel Berger in 2022.

This latest rules discussion involving McIlroy, Hovland and Spieth certainly made for some fascinating TV. Here's what social media were saying:

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV