Jordan Spieth got his British Open win by playing the rules. To be clear, he did not make any mistake. He was just clever enough to see an opportunity that he could exploit.
The shot that kicked off this fortunate turn was his 13th hole shot which strayed far from its intended trajectory. Instead of working to disentangle himself, he chose to declare the ball unplayable. This was after spending close to 20 minutes trying to find a location from which to tee from.
He had three choices to recover under rule 28. The first would be to go back to the tee and replay the shot. Second, he would have to move the ball by 2 club lengths from where the ball rested but not anymore closer to the hole but this choice would have left him still stranded. He needed to get himself out of the rough. A third choice would be to drop the ball anywhere behind the unplayable lie but still be in line with the hole.
Spieth surmised that it would be better to take the third option rather than return to the tee so that he could save himself two strokes.
He would have to consider whether the golf range would be considered out of bounds and if no, he would need a much high location for an ensuing shot. The outcome would be to save on a full stroke, a better choice than going back to the tee. The area he chose to tee from was considered not out of bounds since it was an area that was used by members of the Royal Birkdale. This saved Spieth.
Spieth also had to find a way round the trucks which were parked along the practice area- technically referred to as temporary immovable obstructions in golf parlance. His line of sight would go through the trucks which had him move round to a point that was closer to the green. From there, he was able to surge and move and play in the next 5 holes, ending up in his win.
Then there was the issue about using a golf club to line up his shot. He also had to debate on which club to hit with. He settled on a diving iron.
This controversy attracted the attention of a golf analyst who highlighted rule 8-2a/1 which seemingly does not allow players to use another golf club to align their shot.
But as it would later be confirmed, the golf club which was lying next to him as he took the 13th shot was not pointing towards his target line. Nevertheless, this ‘fake’ controversy gained so much following on social media. In the end, the golf analyst’s comment could have been pure satire.
All the same, it was a stimulating moment. Spieth proved that the game could be won by smart use of principles. And even better, it was a smart comeback from an embarrassing event,