One of the key moments during 2017's Open Championship, we take a look back at the famous drop.
Remember Jordan Spieth’s Infamous Driving Range Drop?
How many golf club driving ranges do you know that are in bounds? This was the question many golf fans were left pondering as Jordan Spieth embarked on an incredible escape route through the 13th hole of his final round of the Open Championship. Before we answer the question – should the driving range have been out of bounds? – let’s run through exactly what happened.
Spieth blazed his tee shot way right off the 13th into an area of extremely heavy rough. With the help of the crowd, the ball was found and this was where the young Texan’s knowledge of the rules came to his advantage. If the driving range was in bounds, Spieth would have the option of dropping back on a line between the location of his ball and the flag.
He asked the question (where many players may not have even thought about it) and the answer was yes. Having dropped with a penalty of one shot on the edge of the range, the Tour Trucks were now blocking his path to the green. Spieth was then given a ‘line of sight’ free penalty drop and that’s where he played the ball from. The whole process took an age and has raised some important questions worth pondering…
Was the drop within the rules?
Yes. Let’s be clear here – Spieth did nothing wrong. In fact, it was his knowledge of the rules that played to his advantage. That it took so long wasn’t his fault either. As golf is played on a natural landscape, these things can and do happen. He followed the letter of the law and did so with a rules official by his side. It was all above board.
Should the driving range have been out of bounds?
The short answer is that if the R&A has foreseen such a scenario it probably would have been. The range is way right of 13 and the thought that any player in the field would find himself on it would have seemed ludicrous before the start of the Championship. If this had happened at 11am on Thursday morning, Spieth would have had range balls whistling past him. Whilst there are examples of practice grounds that are in play, most of the time this because they are so close to the intended line of play. To mark them off with white posts would be too harsh for the golfers playing it. This was not the case at Birkdale.
Did Spieth gain an unfair advantage?
This is where it all gets a little murky. This is the sort of scenario that only ever happens in top-level professional golf. For starters, Spieth’s ball would never have been found if it wasn’t for the army of fans helping him look for it.
Secondly, how many amateurs would have delayed play like this to work out the exact angles for the penalty drop. And finally, the tour trucks provided a line of site obstacle that allowed Spieth to find a perfect lie. For many watching, these factors combined to make this uncomfortable viewing.
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But Spieth isn’t responsible for making the rules or marking out the practice ground. He was using the rules to his advantage and this was the final round of The Open, if he could find a rules-related advantage, he was always going to take it. You can’t blame him for that.
The Open 2017: Should the driving range have been out of bounds? GM Verdict
Jordan Spieth benefitted from an enormous slice of luck on the 13th hole of his final round. It was a perfect storm of events that allowed him to drop in the most bizarre of places from where he went on to salvage a bogey. It was exciting and at times it was farcical. Whilst Spieth benefitted, Kuchar was the victim as his opponent was saved from having to play three from the tee. The shot in the arm the then 23 year-old received from dropping just one shot may have been the deciding factor.
Spieth then went on to produce some of his finest golf and he played the final five holes in five-under par. This included nearly a hole in one on the par-3 14th and then a miraculous eagle on the 15th. Thanks to that stretch he became the Open champion but everybody always looks back on the 2017 tournament and Spieth’s infamous range drop as the turning point.