SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - Jordan Spieth avoided a potentially contentious rules situation during the second round of the PGA Championship on Friday by repeatedly asking a rules official what he could do and making sure he signed off before hitting the shot.
Spieth hit a wayward drive at the par-4 seventh hole - his 16th of the day after starting on the back nine - that came to rest in casual water on a cart path at Baltusrol Golf Club.
The course was saturated after heavy rains early in the morning, the rules of golf allow a free drop in such a situation. But those rules also stipulate that if you get relief, you must take full relief - hence it took Spieth several tries to drop the ball in the correct spot. And yet, even when he did, television replays still showed him with a toe on the edge of casual water - a circumstance from which Spieth said PGA of America rules official Brad Gregory allowed him to proceed.
"It was really weird,'' Spieth said after signing for a 3-under-par 67 which put him at 137, 3-under-par through two rounds and four strokes back of Emilian Grillo.
"It was as complicated as I've ever really had it. Took about as much time as I've ever taken on a free drop.''
Several aspects of the Rules of Golf and the Decisions on the Rules of Golf came into play, complicating the scenario. His ball came to rest in casual water on an artificially surfaced path.
Spieth showed Gregory that type of swing he would take if there had been no casual water on the path. (Decision 24-2b/1). Spieth's stroke and direction were toward the hole. After going through the relief procedure, his ball was in play on the path and clear from his stance. When he dropped, Spieth had the option to select another type of stroke or another club to play the shot and chose to play a different angle.
Because he elected to play in a different direction, based on Decision 20-2c/0.8, Spieth was entitled to "either play the ball as it lay, even if his stance was still in the casual water, or he could have elected to take relief again from the casual water under this different stroke he elected to play,'' according to a PGA of America rules release.
"I just tried to find out exactly all the options I had and ultimately taking relief from casual water gave me the best opportunity to still drop it on the cart path, play it on the cart path,'' Spieth said. "It took a while because of different drops. We weren't sure where my stance would still be and it wasn't full relief.
"Ultimately I still ended up playing with a toe in the water. Because the angle had changed from the angle of my stance looking at the pin, he (Gregory) said he was very happy with it, that it was relief and I was altering my stance to play a different shot, which is true, from where the other drop would have been - which is going right at it,'' Spieth said.
There appeared to be a rules issue because Spieth played the shot with his foot on the edge of the water - meaning he had not taken full relief, an issue absolved by Gregory.
"I would have never hit if I was not told it was okay by a rules official,'' Spieth said. "He told me it was fine. ... I never thought twice about it whatsoever. I don't think there was any problem with it. If there happens to be, then that's not on me. I asked every question I could ask and I got every answer I could to be content.''