Thursday, October 8, 2015

Phil Mickelson at the Presidents Cup

   Just a little while ago there was a confusing incident at the Presidents Cup. What happened is actually very simple, but not easy to understand because it involves a Condition of Competition that is only used at the highest levels of competition.  The every day golfer has likely never been subject to the "One Ball" Condition.
   The Rule/Condition in question can be found in Appendix I-C of the Rules of Golf.  What is making the understanding of this ruling more complicated is that the Condition involves an adjustment to the state of the match penalty for a breach.  But before I cover that, let me just state what the Rule actually is.
   The "One Ball" Condition requires each player to play the same model/brand/type golf ball throughout an entire round.  This means if you start the round with a Pro-V1 you may not switch to a Pro-V1x at any point.  Phil Mickelson was carrying a second model of Callaway golf ball and put it into play on the 7th hole believing the "One Ball" Condition was not in effect (it was not in effect for the Foursomes competition the previous day).
   The penalty in match play for a breach of this condition of competition is an adjustment to the state of the match penalty, NOT a loss of hole.  The verbiage is here: "At the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred; maximum deduction per round - Two holes." This type of penalty also occurs in Rule 4 (carrying non-conforming clubs, having too many clubs, etc) or in Rule 6-4 (having more than one caddie at a time).
   What this means is that when a breach of this condition is discovered, the player should complete the play of the hole and determine the status of the match, not including the penalty.  At that point, you deduct holes, or "ups" (or add "downs") to the status of the match.  In the Mickelson situation, the status of the match after completing the 7th hole was International 1 Up (USA 1 Down), therefore the status of the match was then adjusted to make the International Team 2 up (or Mickelson/Johnson 2 Down).
  Some of the interesting kinks to the ruling:
  Why did the whole side incur the penalty? - The whole side incurs the penalty because of Rule 30-3d.  Because the format of play is Four-Ball match Play, according to Rule 30-3d when either member of the side breaches a local Rule or Condition of competition for which the penalty is an adjustment to the state of the match, the entire side incurs the penalty.  The reason for this is simple: in four-ball there is no other way to apply an adjustment to the state of the match penalty because the match applies to both players.  This also applies with breaches of Rule 4 (too many clubs, carrying non-conforming clubs, etc) or 6-4 (having more than one caddie).
   Where the Presidents Cup went wrong, was having Phil Mickelson pick up and not continue playing the hole.  In many situations in four-ball, one partner might end up simply disqualified for the hole and the other partner must try to play out the hole on his own.  The referee made the mistake of thinking the breach was a disqualification for the hole situation (and was incorrectly confirmed over the radio) and had Mickelson pick up his ball when in fact he should have continued the hole.  In fact, he could have continued the hole with the incorrect ball if he so desired because the "One Ball" Condition only requires the player to start playing the correct ball by the next teeing ground after the breach is discovered.
   I understand this appears to be a complicated ruling, but really it was made much more difficult by the Committee error in having Mickelson pick up on the hole.  If nothing else, I hope everyone who reads this article takes away a better understanding of adjustment to the state of the match penalties. Mickelson/Johnson did not suffer a double loss of hole penalty, only a one hole adjustment that happened to occur after completing a hole they had just lost. Check out Decision 4-4a/9 for a clarification of how the adjustment to the state of the match penalty works.
    Also check out my post from earlier in the year The "One Ball Rule" in the Spotlight.

No comments:

Post a Comment