The rules of golf are full of nuance but it is still a rare moment when the tour players and even the officials are not fully aware of the impact of a ruling. Leave it to Lefty to unearth one of the most obscure rules and it’s odd impact at a high profile event as he and his partner Zach Johnson actually managed effectively lose two holes at one time in their four ball match in the President’s Cup.
Two guys you would expect to know the rulesEmbed from Getty Images
The “One Ball” rule is a common one that is present at most Tour competitions-it dictates that a player cannot change the make or model of his ball between holes in a competition. Since it was not in effect for the foursomes matches Phil incorrectly assumed it was not in play for the best ball matches as well.
He changed to a longer distance Callaway ball on the Par 5 7th only to find out down the fairway he was in violation of the One Ball and would be assessed a one hole “match adjustment penalty” when the hole was done. The bigger mess was that neither Phil nor the tournament official on hand realized that Phil was not required to pick up his ball and drop out of the hole. He could still play out the hole in an attempt to support his pard possibly win the hole and offset the match adjustment penalty.
By the time they realized their mistake in advising him to pick up his ball the tournament officials could not let him replay the shots and Zach lost the hole so they effectively went from even to two-down on one hole in the match.
If you think about it a “match adjustment penalty” like this could effectively make a dormy go away. Imagine if they had been dormy and two up with two to play on the 17th tee and made this bone head mistake. Losing the hole with the match adjustment would have rendered the dormy moot and they could have lost the match on the last hole.
Just another immutable circumstance that can be subject to override by a lurking phrase in the rules of golf.