Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Conceding the Next Stroke

In the Solheim Cup spotlight – Dan Maselli, LPGA Rules Official

I am sure that the title of this week’s blog will not have come as a surprise to most regular readers. It was unfortunate that another wonderful match play tournament between teams representing the USA and Europe will be remembered for a single Rules incident, rather than for the truly magnificent golf and the nail-biting final day’s singles matches that was on show at the Solheim Cup at St. Leon-Rot, Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany.

Many readers will have had their fill of the detail of the incident that occurred between Alison Lee and Suzann Pettersen, on the 17th putting green on Sunday, with a variety of opinions that are heavily weighted against the two European players and their captain, so I will restrict my own opinion to the bare minimum.
•    The referee’s ruling was absolutely correct (click here to hear LPGA Referee, Dan Maselli, explain his ruling in detail).
•    The putt was not conceded under the Rules as nothing was said by either player on the opponent’s side.
•    At worst, the Europeans should have recognised the misunderstanding and requested that the ball be replaced and putted out, without penalty, although this is not strictly provided for in the Rules in the circumstance that prevailed.
Now for a summary of the Rule 2-4 issues relating to the concession of the next stroke, usually made on the putting green; I am not covering the additional points relating to the concession of a hole or a match in this blog.
•    A player may concede their opponent's next stroke at any time, provided the opponent's ball is at rest. The opponent is considered to have holed out with their next stroke, and the ball may be removed by either side.
•    A concession may not be declined or withdrawn under any circumstances.
•    In a four-ball or foursome, either partner may make the concession.
•    No-one else has the authority to make a concession (e.g. a caddie, team captain or spectator).
•    If a player makes a statement (note, not an action) that could reasonably have led their opponent to think their next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4), the opponent should replace their ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty. Decision 2-4/3 is relevant;
Q. In a match between A and B, B made a statement which A interpreted to mean that his (A's) next stroke was conceded. Accordingly, A lifted his ball. B then said that he had not conceded A's next stroke. What is the ruling?

A. If B's statement could reasonably have led A to think his next stroke had been conceded, in equity (Rule 1-4), A should replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay, without penalty.
Otherwise, A would incur a penalty stroke for lifting his ball without marking its position - Rule 20-1 - and he must replace his ball as near as possible to where it lay.
•    Whilst the action of going over to an opponent and shaking hands with them is sufficient implication that a concession has been made, there is nothing in the Rules or Decisions that suggests that a concession is implied by the player turning away from the hole or walking off the putting green.
Returning to the Solheim Cup incident; in my opinion, the European team captain, Carin Koch could have stepped in during play of the 18th hole and asked her players to concede the 18th hole, resulting in a drawn match. If this had happened, the 2015 Solheim Cup would have forever been remembered as a match where good sportsmanship trumped the Rules of Golf.

Good golfing,

Footnote: I was very pleased to see that Suzann Pettersen has now made a contrite apology on her Instagram account and hope that this will help to build the bridges for future Solheim Cup tournaments.

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