The Rory drop – was it the correct thing to do?

Mark McGowan

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

Feature Interviews

Latest Stories

Rory McIlroy had 10 birdies in his opening round at the Players Championship, he ended the day as co-leader, was second in Strokes-Gained-Approach after struggling massively with that facet of the game the week prior, and actually led in Strokes-Gained-Putting which has traditionally been his Achilles’ heel.

But nobody is talking about any of this. Instead, two drops – and one in particular – dominate the narrative, and will continue to do so as long as the world number two is anywhere near the top of the leaderboard over the weekend.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, then check out the video below. Thanks to the McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland group being featured on PGA Tour Live at the time it happened, we got to watch the entire saga unfold, all eight minutes of it.

If you don’t have eight minutes to spare and somehow don’t know what the drama was all about, I’ll lay out the bones of it. Rory pulled his tee shot on the par-4 seventh, it bounced once (at least) and found its way into the hazard. But where did the bounce occur, was the question to be answered. Did it bounce above the red line which marks the hazard, meaning he could drop at a point of entry that was about 220 yards from the green, or did it bounce below the red line, meaning his entry point would’ve been at least 100 yards further back?

Due to their position at the other side of the fairway, with a bunker and a downwards slope in between, the TV cameras couldn’t definitively say, and neither Spieth nor Hovland claimed to be 100 percent certain either way. The only person who expressed a strong opinion on where the ball actually pitched was McIlroy himself, who said he was almost certain that it had carried beyond the line and bounced back in.

In the end, he took the drop where he felt was appropriate and went on to make a double-bogey six. For what it’s worth, having seen the severity of the slope that the ball would’ve been landing on, having looked the hole map to determine what angle the ball would’ve been approaching from, and given the fact that cameras on the other side of the fairway did show the ball bouncing what must’ve been at least three feet in the air, I’m quite confident in stating that I believe the ball did, in fact, bounce above the red line and that the drop taken was legitimate, but when it comes to the rules of golf, I’ve always leant towards discretion being the better part of valour.

If Rory wasn’t 100 percent certain – he said he was fairly sure – and both Hovland and Spieth seemed a little uncomfortable with the situation, then dropping further back at a point where all three players could definitively say they were certain the ball had crossed would’ve been the better thing to do.

To be clear, this is in no way suggesting that McIlroy was trying to employ the dark arts. As I’ve said, I believe the ball did bounce close to where he said it did, but in a similar situation two years ago, ironically at the Players Championship and even more ironically, with Hovland as one of the parties involved, Daniel Berger claimed that his ball had crossed into a hazard at a certain point and both Hovland and Joel Dahmen disagreed, despite Berger, as the man actually playing the shot, having a much better vantage point.

That situation ended with a disgruntled Berger accepting his playing partners’ stances and dropping further back. Was he disadvantaged because of it? Certainly. Was it unfairly so? Perhaps, but in situations where agreement is hard to come by and technology isn’t available to provide a definitive answer, then prudence must prevail.

On the bright side, he double-bogeyed the hole anyway, and probably wouldn’t have shot any higher had he had 100 yards further for his third shot, so any advantage gained didn’t transfer to his scorecard.

Still, if he goes on to win, it’ll be a talking point that’s rehashed for many years to come.

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.