The story of how Lee Westwood showed sporting honour by refusing to argue for a free drop at the Open Championship
Standing on the 10th tee of the third round of this Open Championship, Lee Westwood was at -10 and vying for the lead. His drive leaked to the right and seemed to plunge directly into a lone bush that stood just to the right of the fairway.
Indeed, it was but there seemed to be a ray of hope. On close inspection it became clear the ball was embedded in the grass at the foot of the bush. Perhaps the Englishman might escape punishment by being given a free drop?
Lee Westwood and the rules official then engaged in a conversation that was caught on camera. The latter posed an interesting question: if the ball wasn’t embedded, would you play it?
For many golfers, this would have signalled an opportunity to adopt a hugely unlikely stance in a bid to show that playing it as it lied would have been an option.
Not Lee Westwood. Instead, the Englishman quickly and simply agreed with the implied sentiment of the rules official and said he would have taken a drop for an unplayable lie. With that, the exception to the embedded ball rule (rule 16.1) came into play and Westwood, dropped it back under a penalty of one shot and proceeded to make his first bogey in 32 holes.
In truth, Westwood did what most golfers would hope he would. But would every player in the field have been so willing to take the penalty?
It also illustrates that in today’s world of video referees carefully scrutinising the slightest of movements in pivotal sporting moments, that in golf, honour still plays a huge role.
In a tweet, Padraig Harrington wrote, “very sporting of @WestwoodLee not to attempt to take a free drop on 10. With all recent rules decisions it reminds us of the honour at the heart of the game.”
It is often said that golf is a game played by gentlemen. Sadly, this isn’t always the truth but in the case of Lee Westwood, the honour he showed in this scenario was highly commendable.