US Open: For Justin Thomas, honesty is a costly policy

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — Justin Thomas wanted to honor the spirit of the game.

His reward: a chunky wedge from a bad lie and a big fat bogey on the scorecard.

The PGA champion’s drive on the fourth hole at The Country Club on Saturday came to rest awkwardly beside a drain in the fairway. Thomas asked for a ruling, but confessed to the official that the drain didn’t interfere with his swing; if he’d said it did, he he would have been entitled to free relief.

Forced to play the ball as it lied, Thomas had to reach over the drain and bend down to make contact. He hit the ball chunky into a bunker short of the green.

On-course microphones caught Thomas saying he was annoyed “because so many other people would lie about being able to hit that. But it’s just like, ‘I’m not going to hit it.’”

If a player claims a drain or other “abnormal course condition” would have interfered with the swing they intended to make, they would be allowed free relief under the rules. But Thomas conceded that he couldn’t honestly claim that.

“In the spirit of the game, I wasn’t going to hit the drain,” he said after the round. “I felt like I very easily could have told her that I was going to and gotten a free drop, but I wasn’t.”

Thomas’ bogey was part of a round of 2-over 72 that left him at 3 over. It left him eight shots off the lead — one more than his deficit last month when he came back to win the PGA.

In a statement, the USGA explained “if the obstruction is close enough to distract the player but does not otherwise interfere, there is no relief under the Rule” that dictates when relief can be taken.

GOING BACKWARD

Jon Rahm needed to get creative when he found himself behind a tree to the left of the eighth fairway and nowhere to stand to hit his second shot.

After considering his options — walking back and forth beside the tree to size up different shots — the defending U.S. Open champion decided to stand next to the ball, facing the wrong way, and with a one-handed swing hit the ball backward toward the fairway.

Rahm has tried the shot before.

And in a major, too.

At the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, Rahm was beside a creek and had nowhere to stand for his normal right-handed shot. His one-handed chip landed on the fairway and rolled onto the green.

This time he improved his lie but his third shot failed to make the green. He failed to get up and down from about 12 feet, settling for a bogey that dropped him to 3 under par.

FAMILIAR SIGHTS

The hole location on the 17th hole might look familiar to golf fans: It’s the same spot the pin was place for the singles matches on the final day of the 1999 Ryder Cup.

No. 17 at The Country Club was already a part of golf history from the 1913 U.S. Open, when Francis Ouimet birdied the hole to tie British pros Ted Ray and Harry Vardon. Ouimet, who grew up across the street from the 17th green, won the 18-hole playoff the following day for a victory that gave birth to an American golf boom.

Leonard, who is in Brookline with the broadcast team, needed just to halve his match against Europe’s Jose Maria Olazabal to clinch the Cup for the United States. He sank a 45-footer to set off a huge celebration on the green.

The setup was friendly for the leaders. Matt Fitzpatrick, Keegan Bradley, Adam Hadwin and Scottie Scheffler all birdied the 17th.

SPIETH BUG

Jordan Spieth still isn’t feeling great after a week coping with a stomach bug.

He played the back nine Sunday and figured he would see it again during a practice round Wednesday, except that’s when he got sick.

“I normally eat a lot and I’ve eaten very, very little this week,” Spieth said after a 71 left him at 3-over 213. “I just don’t want to. Right now I should be starving. I didn’t eat lunch and I have no desire to eat anything.”

Time for a week of rest? Maybe.

Spieth was a late commitment to play next week in the Travelers Championship. Part of that has to do with scheduling; he is playing a pro-am in Ireland in ahead of the Scottish Open in two weeks, followed by the British. And there was another reason.

“Honestly, it’s 110 degrees at home (in Dallas) and I don’t want to go home,” Spieth said. “I felt like I could take a couple of days off after this. If it lingers, I probably won’t play. There’s no need in making matters worse.”

___

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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