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Players Championship: Spieth says he's ‘good’ with McIlroy drop after rules question

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Mike Ehrmann

Jordan Spieth isn’t going to look back at the 2024 Players Championship with fond memories. For the sixth time in 10 starts at TPC Sawgrass, the three-time major winner failed to reach the weekend, posting rounds of two-over 74 and even-par 72 to miss the cut by three shots.

There was also the awkwardness of Thursday’s opening round, during which Spieth and Rory McIlroy, playing together along with Viktor Hovland, got into a lengthy debate regarding a drop that McIlroy was taking on the seventh hole. McIlroy’s drive hit land and then bounced into the the water left of the fairway, but there was a question of whether where the ball ultimately crossed into the penalty are and whether the bounce came outside or inside the red penalty line. McIlroy was “adamant” it had bounced outside the line, but Spieth could be heard asking whether anyone had seen it for certain.

Before leaving Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Spieth attempted to tamp down any perceived tension between he and McIlroy from the Thursday incident.

“I thought it ended up in a good spot. I only walked over there because I thought he had dropped it, and then he was questioning where he was dropping it,” Spieth said. “So I was just trying to make sure he didn't play it and everyone was good.

“I was good with the spot he was choosing,” Spieth continued. “Then I was just listening to the conversation of Rory and Viktor, and Rory had said, I think it's … we think it crossed up there, could have been back there, so this seems like somewhere in between. But then that sounds like something you probably should verify with a rules official, and then he did, and it was all good.”

What ramped up the attention that discussion had gotten was also the fact that there was a similar question/debate about a McIlroy tee shot earlier in the round, on the 18th hole after the threesome had started on the 10th, that also found the water off the tee. Asked if the 18th hole had any baring on the conversation that happened on the seventh, Spieth said: “Every situation like that is their own, They're not like the same shots by any means.

“Look, I think all anybody wants is for you to put the ball where it should go, and in our sport you just get … especially on a golf course like this or last week, you get some situations where it can be really tricky on knowing for sure. You normally err on the safe side and then you pick where you're virtually certain where it did cross, and I think that's what Rory chose both times.”

Spieth acknowledged that given both he and McIlroy are major champions and popular players, the discussion likely got more attention than it would have otherwise. But he downplayed it as part of the normal course of play on tour.

“I get it's me and Rory, but that kind of conversation probably happened a dozen times yesterday in groups. Again, it was like Viktor was having the conversation, and I only walked over because it seemed like, hey, let's just make sure everything is all right, which I wasn't even planning on getting involved and maybe shouldn't have, but it seemed like they were maybe at a sticking point. So I thought maybe I could help.”