Royleen discussed Unplayable lies in Blog #10. Due to all the confusion about Jordan’s use of three rules in the Open-here is a review. (Content from USGA)
1. Spieth Takes an Unplayable lie after evaluating the situation and realizing that attempting to play his ball as it lay was not the best choice, Spieth decided to deem his ball unplayable. For a penalty of one stroke, there were three options available to him under Rule 28 .
Spieth decided to choose the back-on-a-line option (28b). See Rule below.
Under Rule 28b there is no limit to how far back on the line a player may go, provided the location the original ball had come to rest remains between the hole and the spot where the player is going to drop the ball. In Spieth’s case, this option took him back to the practice range, which was not defined as out of bounds.
2. Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO) Interference: Once Spieth went back on the line, keeping the original location of his golf ball in line with the hole, he found himself in the middle of some equipment trucks, which were defined as Temporary Immovable Obstructions (TIOs). Since the TIOs intervened directly between Spieth’s ball and the hole, and were on his intended line, they interfered with Spieth’s next stroke, and he was entitled to relief without additional penalty. Under the watchful eye of a referee, Spieth dropped a ball in the area where he was clear of interference from the TIOs.
3. Pace of Play: The 13th hole at Royal Birkdale took the final pairing longer to complete than expected, and as a result, Spieth and fellow-competitor Matt Kuchar fell more than a hole behind the preceding group. However, it is important to recognize that players cannot be held responsible for delays that are out of their control. Simple rulings take time, and very involved rulings like this one take even more time, especially when so many spectators are present. In order to protect all of the players in the field, the referees used many available resources, including an overhead image of the situation, to ensure that Rule 28b, and the ruling as a whole, was properly executed.
After the ruling was complete, Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller, made an educated guess of the yardage to the green, and once spectators were out of the way, Spieth swiftly made his stroke, with his ball coming to rest short of a greenside bunker. He would then get up and down from there for an excellent bogey, setting the stage for his historic finish.
RULE 28 – Unplayable Lie
The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard (yellow lines or stakes). A player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.
If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:
a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); [Perhaps a good option if a player does not wish to play out of the sand or the ball is under the lip of the bunker and they are confident the repeat shot will not end up back into the bunker], or
b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped;
[This is tricky because you must draw a straight line from the hole to where the ball is located and drop anywhere behind that point, keeping the point between you and the hole on that straight imaginary line. If relief is not good on that imaginary line going backwards, you might try option a or c], or
c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker. When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.
Penalty for Breach of Rule:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.