Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kuchar, Wrong Places and Claims



                During the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Matt Kuchar played a little more golf than he had bargained for in his 3-and-2 victory over Bernd Wiesberger.  On the 14th hole, about to wrap up a 5-and-4 victory, Kuchar had to move his ball-marker to the side.  Unfortunately he forgot to move it back.  He putted from the wrong place and the players were about to consider the match complete when Wiesberger’s caddie asked if Kuchar had replaced his marker.  Kuchar admitted the mistake and the official ruling is that Kuchar lost the hole for playing from a wrong place.
                As there is some misinformation going around let’s go through the match play process and highlight some differences between match play and stroke play.
                We may remember Zach Johnson’s tenuous victory in 2012 at the Colonial when he made the same error.  He forgot to move his mark back, and fortunately made the putt because he only had a three-stroke lead, was penalized two strokes for playing from a wrong place in breach of Rule 20-1 and the ball was holed because it was not a serious breach of playing from a wrong place.  That was stroke play. 
                In match play there are no two-stroke penalties.  If a player is guilty of playing from a wrong place he incurs a loss of hole penalty.  What is interesting about match play is that because players are permitted to overlook a breach of the Rules by their opponent, a claim must be made to apply the penalty.  If a referee is assigned to the match, he must act on any breach of the Rules that is observed or reported to him but in the case where officials are not assigned to a match, the opponent must make a claim to apply the penalty for a Rules infraction.  As soon as Wiesberger’s caddie brought the infraction to light, Wiesberger was no longer permitted to overlook the breach and by asking the Rules Official for a ruling, a claim was made.
                One piece of information I do not have is whether a referee was assigned to the match, but my understanding of the sequence of events makes it a moot point.  As soon as Wiesberger’s caddie brought the infraction to light, Wiesberger was no longer permitted to overlook the breach and by asking the Rules Official for a ruling, a claim was made.  Had Kuchar and Wiesberger agreed for some reason not to apply the penalty, they would both have been disqualified for agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf.
                Let’s be clear, the hole was not conceded by Kuchar.  Kuchar incurred a loss of hole penalty and therefore the match had to continue.  Kuchar still managed to close the match out two holes later.  He once again had to move his ball-marker to the side, but this time, he remembered to move it back.
                For more on claims see Rule 2-5.  Also, refer to the Claims chart provided in the Rules Study Guides & Charts section of FarbTalk.

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