Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Concessions in Match Play

Taken from ESPN video
An interesting instance of sportsmanship by Sergio Garcia was widely misreported by the golfing media last Friday. I read several accounts that said Sergio had conceded his opponent, Rickie Fowler’s 17’ 7” putt, on the 7th hole at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. If he had conceded Fowler’s par putt he would then have had to have made his own 6’ 11” putt to halve the hole. What actually happened was that Garcia asked Fowler if he agreed to consider the hole halved, without either of them putting out. This sporting gesture of generosity, which obviously favoured Fowler, followed an incident on the previous hole, where Rickie Fowler was forced to wait some time for a ruling to be made. Garcia had requested a free drop away from some bees that were circling a greenside sprinkler where his ball was at rest. Having received permission from the match referee, he was still not comfortable and asked for further relief, which was also granted. This took quite a while to sort out and when it was Fowler’s turn to play he missed his makeable birdie putt. Garcia explained the incident in this way;
"I felt guilty. I felt guilty that my drop on 6 took so long. I felt like if I would have been in his position I would have been uncomfortable waiting so long to hit my birdie putt. So I just thought I have to do something. I have to do something to make sure that I feel good with myself."
If you would like to see the shortened video of this episode it is available at this ESPN link, following the advertisement.

The wording of Rule 2-4, which deals with concession of match, hole or next stroke, confirms that there was no concession between Garcia and Fowler;

A player may concede a match at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that match.

A player may concede a hole at any time prior to the start or conclusion of that hole.

A player may concede his opponent’s next stroke at any time, provided the opponent’s ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with his next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.

A concession may not be declined or withdrawn.
The agreement to halve a hole on which at least one player had made a stroke is ratified by Decision 2-1/1.5;
Q. In a match, a player and his opponent play their second shots on a par 5 hole. Unexpectedly, neither ball can be found. Rather than proceeding under Rule 27-1, both players agree to a half. Is this permitted?

A. Yes. An agreement to halve a hole being played is permissible.

However, if the players agree to consider a hole halved without either player making a stroke, they should be disqualified under Rule 1-3 for agreeing to exclude the operation of Rule 2-1 by failing to play the stipulated round, provided the players knew that this was a breach of the Rules. (Revised)
I applaud the sporting gesture made by Sergio Garcia, which could have been the catalyst that caused him to lose his match with Rickie Fowler by one hole. However, I caution players in match play to ensure that they know exactly what they are doing before making some types of generous gestures concerning the Rules to their opponents. For example, if you inform your opponent that you saw them touch their ball in play without marking it, but you are not going to call the penalty, because it was obvious that they gained no advantage, you are guilty of agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf and should be disqualified. Whereas, if you observe the infraction, but say nothing, there can be no penalty. Choosing to ignore a breach of Rule by an opponent is one of many differences between match play Rules and stroke play Rules. I have written a comprehensive eDocument on this subject, which all golfers that expect to play in match play competitions could benefit by reading before taking on their opponents. Click here for details.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.


Stewart said...


This sparked a query for me, relating to a recent situation I am aware of.

An interclub pennant match (6 players per team, individual match play format), of senior golfers (aged over 50), was scheduled on a day after a lot of rain. The course was declared playable but only as a 'no golf carts' day due to the state of the course. The conditions of the competition permit participants to use golf carts. One of the scheduled matches was between players from each side that routinely use carts and do not have the physical stamina to play without use of a cart. Consequently, these two competitors agreed to their match being halved without playing a single shot. The question is do the rules of golf permit this?

I have been unable to find a reference to this specific circumstance in the rules and decisions, although I note your blog's reference to the requirement for a shot to be played before players can agree to halve a particular hole or risk disqualification of both players.

While the end result of having a match halved or having both players from an individual match disqualified would have a neutral impact on the team result, it would impact on the total number of individual matches won by each team. That is, in the disqualification situation, a tied team result would mean 2 and a half matches to each team (no matches go beyond the 18th hole), but if the problematic match is considered halved, a tied team result would be 3 individual matches to each team. Under the rules of the competition, to decide entry into the semifinals, if the leading teams after the initial round are level on total number of team points, the number of individual matches won are the countback mechanism. So it seems that the decision on whether the rules permit the match to be halved or both players to be disqualified could be important. (I also confirm that there is nothing further in the conditions of the pennant competition that is relevant to this situation.)

I would welcome your thoughts Barry?

Barry Rhodes said...


In the absence of any Condition of Competition covering this situation it is my opinion that both sides are disqualified for not having played the match. Otherwise, you could envisage a situation whereby it could suit one of the teams to persuade their opponents to agree on a half without playing a stroke, so as to guarantee that they did not suffer a loss on that match.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

I saw the most interesting and confusing thing yesterday at the WGC Dell Match play between Sergio and Shane Lowry yesterday (March 23, 2017). It was the 18th hole and Shane was 1 up putting to win the match. His putt went by the hole and before it stopped rolling he immediately stopped the rolling golf ball with his putter and picked it up.

I can't figure out how this was not a penalty? I think in all likelihood Sergio might have eventually conceded the next stroke but I can't imagine he had time to make that decision (as the ball was still rolling when Shane stopped it and picked it up).

Any thoughts?

Barry Rhodes said...


You misread this match play situation. Lowry had to make the putt to halve the hole and win the match 1 up. As soon as his putt passed the hole he knew that he had lost the 18th hole and the match was halved. There was no need for Lowry to putt again, or for Garcia to concede the hole, as the result of the hole had already been decided when the putt was missed.