DORAL, Fla. – Earlier this year while he was playing the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Jordan Spieth began asking an odd question that still has no answer.
Spieth explained on Saturday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship that when greens get “shiny” his putter has a tendency to slip on the ground. When he practices, the world No. 1 said he wets the bottom of his putter for added traction, either with a towel or by licking his thumb and rubbing it on the bottom of the putter.
But when Spieth asked if it was allowed under the Rules of Golf during a tournament round, no one could say for certain.
“I’ve spoken to commentators, players and nobody knew the answer if you can do it,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was legal so I’ve never done it on the golf course [during a tournament round], so I asked an official once I knew the course was like that [on Saturday].”
Spieth approached a rules official on the third hole at Doral with the question, “He asked me what my intentions were and I told him to make it easier to set the putter down,” he said.
After a review of the question by the rules staff, the answer came back to Spieth on the eighth hole.
“It was a split on the decision,” he said. “So they called the [U.S. Golf Association] and he said that the USGA was going to talk about it further but for now we’re going to rule that you cannot do it.”
The official told Spieth he could use a towel to clean his club and if it is wet that is not a violation, but, at least for now, he advised him not to lick his thumb and apply it to the bottom of his putter.
“They [the USGA] are going to talk about it, we’ve all kind of said, ‘no.’ The intent was there,” said Tour vice president of rules and competition Slugger White, who cited Rule 4-2a (playing characteristics changed and foreign material). “His intent was to keep the putter from moving around.”
Spieth, who struggled to a 1-over 73 on Saturday, said it was interesting that he “stumped” everyone and that it didn’t impact his play on Saturday, “Still didn’t make a putt today,” he laughed.