Hope you're sitting down: there was a rules controversy at a golf event this weekend. But for once the much-maligned rule book isn't so much as fault as are the infamous "vagaries" of match play.
To catch you up to speed: Garcia and Kuchar were locked in a quarterfinal duel when things went awry at the par-3 seventh at Austin C.C. Trailing Kuchar by one, Garcia missed a seven-footer for par to win the hole, his ball coming to rest an inch or two away from the cup. A distance Suzann Pettersen would concede as good.
However, Garcia—never a model of equanimity—went after his putt and gave it a quick love-tap, and the ball lipped out. Due to the Spaniard's swiftness, Kuchar did not have a chance to concede the putt.
As such, Garcia lost the hole, which clearly did not sit well. On the next green, the 2017 Masters champ took an angry full swing at a missed putt. Cameras then caught a tense back and forth between Kuchar and Garcia at the 10th hole. Tensions (relatively) returned to normal for the rest of the match, which Kuchar won, 2 up.
But after the round, Kuchar gaslit the situation by stating Garcia had asked Kuchar to concede a hole to make things fair. Even against the backdrop of this unfortunate circumstance, a bizarre request at this level of competition.
In the moment, many—led by NBC Sports' Paul Azinger—were quick to blame the Spaniard. Upon further review, more voices, including those of fellow players, came to Garcia's defense. So who should shoulder the blame: Garcia or Kuchar? Two of Golf Digest's own, digital editor Sam Weinman and staff writer Joel Beall, speak for each side of the debate.
It's Sergio's Fault
Consider for a moment this alternate-world scenario: You are stopped at a traffic light when a car hits you from behind. Both cars are damaged, and when you emerge from your vehicle, the other driver explains that he was temporarily blinded by the sun, and he didn’t mean to hit you.
“That’s a tough break,” you say.
“I know, right?” he says. “Maybe because of my bad luck, we should split the cost of the repairs.”
To which you reply, “Nice try.”
In case you couldn’t tell, the car wreck in question here is the Garcia-Kucar debacle. And the driver looking to share the blame is Garcia.
Even if we can all agree that Garcia fell victim to an arcane golf rule when he hockey-pucked his way around the seventh green on Saturday—or that his opponent bungled the concession and its aftermath— it was still a misfortune that began and ended with him. It might not have been fair, but even less fair would have been to expect Kuchar to shoulder some of the blame by asking him to concede an ensuing hole. A golfer has enough to deal with in the heat of battle. To be forced to atone for another player’s haste shouldn’t have to be one of them -- Sam Weinman
It's Kuchar's Fault
Easy to blame Sergio. This, after all, is the same cat who went ballistic in a Saudi beach two months ago. But while Garcia wasn't right, it's Kuchar that's in the wrong.
This was a non-issue until Kuchar called over an official. That Kuchar played dumb—he told official Robby Ware,"Listen, I don't know how to handle this, but I didn't concede the putt, Sergio missed the putt" made matters worse. Kuchar's been on tour for two decades; he knew what he was doing. His "Gee Golly" act doesn't play anymore.
As personalities like James Hahn, Lee Westwood, caddie Ian Finnis and former player/SkySports commentator Tony Johnstone pointed out, the 40-year-old could have walked to the next tee and made nothing of it. If an official would have stepped in, Kuchar could have diffused the situation with, "I said it was good." As this season has shown, sometimes common sense needs to overrule the letter of the law.
Instead, Kuchar jumped at the chance to use the rules to his advantage. The gamesmanship worked; he won the hole, and Sergio was never the same for the rest of the match. The cost? Another shot to a suddenly-suspect reputation. -- Joel Beall