DORAL, Fla. -- This is a story about spit.
Well, not just any spit -- Jordan Spieth's spit, and the legal questions over whether it can be applied to the bottom of his putter.
Let's allow Spieth himself to explain, as he did following a third-round 73 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Saturday.
"On the practice green," he said, "if it gets shiny and we don't have a rag there, I'll lick my thumb and put it over the sole of the putter, because when it has moisture on it, it sets on the ground better."
He has stopped short, however, of ever employing that method during competition, because he wasn't sure whether it was legal.
Early in his round, he inquired as to whether he could use the thumb-lick in a tournament.
"I had to ask an official once I realized the course was like that today," he said. "I realized it on No. 2; I just couldn't get set. Maybe because my putter is older, maybe because it's rounded on the bottom, but it glides on the grass when it's shiny. On bentgrass, it sticks to it; on Bermuda and sometimes on fescue, if it's firmer, you can almost fall over if you use it to anchor yourself."
On the third hole, he summoned a PGA Tour rules official.
"He said, 'What are your intentions?' and I told him, 'My intentions are to make it easier to set the putter down.' I'd never done it before, because my intentions are for it to help me, but if I can do it, then I'm going to."
It took about five holes, but when the rules official reported back to Spieth, he admitted that there was a split decision among his colleagues.
So they appealed to a higher authority.
"They called the USGA," Spieth said. "I don't know what exactly happened, but he came back to me on No. 8 and said they were still going to talk about it further, but for now they were going to rule that I can't do it."
Spieth seemed amused that he had a rules issue that nobody could seem to figure out.
"It was a bit interesting to stump everyone," he said. "But I had asked a dozen people and nobody knew the answer."
After the lengthy post-round explanation of exactly what he'd been asking and what the decision was, he smiled and offered an assessment of his putting -- spit or no spit.
"I still didn't make a putt today."