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 US Open on Sunday (AEST) 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 would have been entitled to free relief.
READ MORE: Furious star’s angry outburst over Bali scandal
READ MORE: ‘Absolute shambles’ decides Super Rugby title
READ MORE: Origin stars learn their fate after ugly tackles go on report
Forced to play the ball as it lay, Thomas had to reach over the drain and bend down to make contact. He hit the chunky ball 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.”
Scott’s shot finishes where it started
Thomas’ bogey was part of a round of two-over 72 that left him at three over. He left him eight shots off the lead – one more than his deficit last month when he came back to win the PGA Championship.
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.
Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick avoided the carnage and calamity that took down golf’s best at a US Open that set the tone for a final day of survival.
Zalatoris, who lost to Thomas in a three-hole playoff at the PGA Championship last month, made only one bogey — a staggering feat on a beast of a Brookline course — for a 3-under 67.
“Felt like I shot a 61,” Zalatoris said.
“Whenever I made a mistake I was able to get away with it or pull off something miraculous.”
Fitzpatrick, already a champion at The Country Club with his US Amateur title in 2013, was equally steady and ran off three birdies over his last five holes for a 68. He will be in the final group of a major for the second straight time.
Most telling was they didn’t make any double bogeys.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!