The PLAYERS: Rory McIlroy puts his OB controversy with Spieth, Hovland to bed

Rory McIlroy hit it into the water twice Thursday at The PLAYERS Championship and still fired off a 7-under 65.

However, his tee shot on the par-4 7th created some controversy between him and his playing partners, Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland. He hit a low projected shot that appeared to bounce into the water.

The incident caught everyone’s attention because rulings don’t usually take as long as this one did to figure out.

That is in part because both Spieth and Hovland questioned whether Rory’s take on it was correct.

After his round, McIlroy addressed the situation.

“It was just a matter of whether it was above the line or below, and I thought I saw it pitch above the line,” McIlroy explained. “I was adamant that I saw it bounce above the red line, but when someone comes in and says, ‘Well, someone thought that it didn’t.’ Then you’re like—it just puts some doubt in your mind. Again, it’s up to you to be comfortable enough with your decision that you did see what you saw.”

McIlroy took a drop at where he believed the ball crossed the out-of-bounds line and into the water. That did not appear to sit well with Hovland, as the 2019 PLAYERS champion made it clear he thought the ball had crossed further back toward the tee box.

Meanwhile, Spieth was concerned over whether or not the ball actually bounced below the OB marker, and not above it as McIlroy claimed it had. That would have made a significant difference as to where McIlroy would then play his third shot.

It didn’t help that the position where the ball went into the water is not visible from the various camera angles used to broadcast the tournament. It’s essentially a blind spot.

“I started to doubt myself a little bit,” said McIlroy. “I was like, ‘Okay, did I actually see what I thought I saw?’ But I mean, as long as — I was comfortable, and I was just making sure that Jordan and Viktor were comfortable, too.”

It doesn’t appear that Spieth or Hovland suggested McIlroy did something wrong. Yet, neither spoke to the media after the round, so one knows for sure how they feel about it.

From the video, though, once they got on the same page, both agreed with McIlroy’s decision to drop where he did.

Hovland is a stickler for rules, as he was involved in a similar situation with Daniel Berger at The 2022 PLAYERS Championship. He remained steadfast in that scenario, so for him to eventually agree with McIlroy’s decision said a lot.

Spieth also seemed to be protecting the game’s integrity. They both wanted to ensure he didn’t have another rules infraction like McIlroy did at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

“I think Jordan was just trying to make sure I was doing the right thing,” McIlroy said. “I was pretty sure my ball had crossed where I was sort of dropping it. It’s so hard because there was no TV evidence. I was adamant.”

McIlroy ultimately settled for a double-bogey that hole, so his drop didn’t end up helping him.

The Northern Irishman tied a record with 10 birdies on the day. It was quite the improvement from last week’s struggles at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Kudos to the PGA Tour for posting the entire interaction, though. The Tour doesn’t usually publish those things during tournament play.

The trio will play again together on Friday at 1:40 p.m. ET as they look to make the cut and play for big money.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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