Jordan Spieth pulled his phone out of his golf bag on no. 1 at TPC Sawgrass after his ball came to rest on an especially crappy lie in a bunker that hadn’t been raked properly. He snapped a picture to provide proof to the PGA Tour staff. And then, he went on to double-bogey the hole, his 10th in the opening round of The Players.
Just to be clear, bunker-raking etiquette is taken *very* seriously on Tour. Perhaps Spieth was being slightly dramatic, but I don’t blame him and actually applaud him for taking the picture — these days, “evidence” is everything and when the technology is so easily accessible, it’s almost the only way to make a valid case.
In the first few years on Tour, I remember hearing caddies and players rant about bunkers that weren’t properly raked. There were even a few caddies who had “reputations” because of their alleged poor form when it came to raking bunkers. I once saw an incensed player confront the group in front of them walking out of the scoring trailer and interrogating if one of them had been in whatever bunker on the last hole or had seen someone ahead of them.
I heard enough to ask a caddie or two about the complaints after it came up once. I was educated on the importance of tour-level expectations when raking bunkers. It was enough for me to fear ever going near a bunker or rake if the impossible ever happened and I caddied at any pro event. If you watch closely enough — I don’t know if they show it on TV — but if you’re at at tournament, you’ll notice how carefully a caddie rakes the bunker and even his/her form in action. It’s like an art, except it’s learned skill that I’ve never had the patience to ask anyone to show me. (Which is actually a good point and perhaps I will at the next appropriate time just for reference. I already find raking bunkers sloppily a chore.)
Just wanted to provide some context on bunker-raking etiquette because it is indeed almost comparable to a misdemeanor crime on Tour. It’s unclear who is to blame in this particular case that Spieth brought to light. It could have been oversight by the hardworking grounds crew (not pointing finger — I have deep respect for these guys whose efforts and expertise are often unappreciated and overlooked), or it could have been negligence by a “new” or “amateur” caddie. I’m sure the offender will be discovered. Word of mouth spreads pretty quickly around here, but the veracity is often suspect. Per experience, I abide by the rule to never believe anything I hear with certainty (more like a grain of salt), unless it comes from the source or a witness because the way BS rumors start out here is something else and somewhat baffling when you consider the demographic.
Back to Spieth’s unfortunate lie in the bunker on the first hole. He’s never one to hold back on his emotions on the golf course, so his annoyance was clear. His shot out of the sand had suboptimal results and to add salt to the wound, he three-putted.
“It was just a bunker that was raked to where it just kind of looked like somebody didn’t really care much to do it or were rushing off the green,” said Spieth, following a one-over 73 in the first round. “I was in worse than a plugged lie, when (the ball) just trickled into it.
“And I overreacted probably a bit, but all in all, you just don’t see that very often and I know my guy, Michael, rakes and makes sure that that’s exactly the way that it was when he went in there, so that if you hit it in the bunker, everybody gets the same kind of thing. And you don’t see it — guys are very good 99.9 percent of the time and that was very frustrating, because I knew where I was, from a normal lie, it wasn’t too bad; and from that lie I had no chance. So it was a frustrating time in the round there where I was trying to kind of get some momentum going.”
I hear you, Jordan. I hear you.
Spieth was just one of many big names to open with a 73 and tied for 66th after the first round. Others include Rory McIlroy, who confessed aggravating an old back injury, Sergio Garcia and Justin Thomas.