For those who scoff at people who say, “The rules of golf are there to help you,” here’s an odd situation that might change your mind. At least, a little bit.
Check out what happened on Sunday to Matthew Southgate, who was closing in on earning his PGA Tour card for the first time in the Web.com Tour Finals. Southgate faced a short birdie putt on the 15th hole of the final round of the DAP Championship when this gust from the gods got him:
A leaf?! How’s that for a bad break? But actually, it turns out that it wasn’t as bad of a break as Southgate and most viewers initially thought. And as a result, the situation got much, much worse.
You see, Southgate was actually entitled to replay his putt thanks to Rule 19-1, which reads in full:
*Rule 19 - Ball in Motion Deflected or Stopped* *19-1. By Outside Agency* *If a player's ball in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by any outside agency, it is a rub of the green, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, except:* *a. If a player's ball in motion after a stroke other than on the putting green comes to rest in or on any moving or animate outside agency, the ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball came to rest in or on the outside agency, but not nearer the hole, and* *b. If a player's ball in motion after a stroke on the putting green is deflected or stopped by, or comes to rest in or on, any moving or animate outside agency, except a worm, insect or the like, the stroke is canceled. The ball must be replaced and replayed.* *If the ball is not immediately recoverable, another ball may be substituted.* *Exception: Ball striking person attending or holding up flagstick or anything carried by him - see Rule 17-3b.* *Note: If a player's ball in motion has been deliberately deflected or stopped by an outside agency:* *(a) after a stroke from anywhere other than on the putting green, the spot where the ball would have come to rest must be estimated. If that spot is:* *(i) through the green or in a hazard, the ball must be dropped as near as possible to that spot;* *(ii) out of bounds, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1; or* *(iii) on the putting green, the ball must be placed on that spot.* *(b) after a stroke on the putting green, the stroke is canceled. The ball must be replaced and replayed.* *If the outside agency is a fellow-competitor or his caddie, Rule 1-2 applies to the fellow-competitor. (Player's ball deflected or stopped by another ball - see Rule 19-5)*
Hopefully, that’s one of the parts that will be simplified by the USGA when it makes its much-talked-about revision of golf’s rules. Asking someone to decipher all of that is more difficult than any reading comprehension portion of the SAT.
The important part involves a stroke on the green being affected by "any moving or animate outside agency," then "the stroke is canceled," and "the ball must be replaced and replayed." Whoops.
Instead, Southgate, thinking he had gotten robbed by Mother Nature, tapped in for par. But by not replacing his ball, Southgate incurred a two-shot penalty after his round. Ouch. And by signing an incorrect scorecard (the penalty wasn’t discovered until too late), he was docked two more strokes. Ouch again.
Before having four shots tacked onto his card (he wound up making a quadruple bogey on 15 instead of that par), Southgate added a bogey on 17 and a triple bogey on 18 meaning he wound up losing eight shots on the final four holes to fall to T-64 for the event. Nicholas Lindheim won the tournament in a playoff over Chesson Hadley and Rob Oppenheim.
The low finish dropped him to 20th in the Web.com Tour Finals standings after three events. He’ll have one more chance at this week’s Web.com Tour Championship to remain in the top 25 of the standings and lock up his PGA Tour card for the upcoming season, but those four shots could loom large.
For a man who has shown tremendous courage and perseverance battling back from testicular cancer, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Southgate handled this crazy -- and costly -- four-shot penalty well on Sunday night.
Chin up, is right. But this should also serve as an important PSA to golfers everywhere: Know the rules -- especially this one. Some of them actually are there to help you.