By John Strege
Sergio Garcia conceded a 17-foot par putt to Rickie Fowler on the seventh hole of their match in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Friday, but he would not concede that it was odd and potentially costly.
Take our word for it, then. It was both odd and costly. They halved the hole as a result of Garcia's benevolence, and he ended up losing to Fowler, 1-up on the 18th hole.
The conceded putt, a staple of match play and usually occurring from within three feet, doesn't often rise to the level of notable. Here are others that did:
-- The most famous, and magnanimous, conceded putt was the three-footer Jack Nicklaus gave to Tony Jacklin in the final match of the otherwise contentious 1969 Ryder Cup, resulting in a draw between the U.S. and European (see photo above). "I don't think you would have missed that Tony," Nicklaus said, "but I didn't want to give you the chance."
-- In a second-round match at the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills in 1990, Phil Mickelson, facing a four-foot birdie putt, inexplicably conceded a 25-foot par putt to Jeff Thomas. Mickelson said he did so to "put pressure on myself."
However, years later, he confessed to Golf World's Dave Shedloski. "I'll never forget the look that he gave me," Mickelson said. "It was just funny. I ended up making a three- or four-foot birdie putt to win the hole. Why did I do that? Well, he took like two minutes to hit the chip shot, and he hit it 40 feet by the hole. Then he started the process again, and I just thought, 'just pick it up.' So he did, and I made it, and we went on."
Mickelson went on to the win the U.S. Amateur.
-- At the Solheim Cup last August, in a match pitting Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson against Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and Charley Hull, Creamer was preparing to hole a short par attempt at the seventh hole, to clear the way for a birdie putt on a similar line for Thompson, to halve the hole. Meanwhile, Annika Sorenstam, vice captain of the European team, told one of the caddies to concede Creamer's putt to keep her from giving Thompson a read.
Controversy ensued, because Solheim Cup rules forbid vice captains from giving advice to players. Creamer was not happy about it. Ultimately it was ruled that what Sorenstam said did not constitute advice.
-- In 1957, Sports Illustrated posed this question to several prominent representatives from the golf world, including Howard Gill, then the editor and publisher of Golf Digest: Should a golfer concede a putt?
"No," Gill replied. "Years ago [1925, in a quarterfinal match], Walter Hagen beat Leo Diegel out of the PGA Championship with that technique. He would concede putt after putt, some of them six-footers. Then, at the last hole, when Diegel had a two-footer, Hagen turned away. Leo was so burned up that he missed the putt." It came on the fourth extra hole in a 36-hole match.
-- In the 2012 Ryder Cup, Tiger Woods conceded a three-foot putt to Francesco Molinari on the last hole that enabled them to halve their match, which gave the Europeans an outright victory, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2. Had Woods not conceded the putt and Molinari missed, Tiger would have won the match and the Ryder Cup would have been halved, though the Europeans still would have retained the cup.
Why is this important? It was only to bettors. "Industry experts said the late drama cost UK betting companies around 10 million pounds [in excess of $16 million] in total," the Daily Mail wrote. "A Ladbrokes spokesman told MailOnline today: 'No-one bets on a tie. It cost us just over 650,000 pounds last night on Tiger's miss. Tiger is not a bookie's friend this morning."