Oops, Poulter’s gaffe proves costly

As he prepared to face a 30-foot “must make putt” for a likely tying birdie in a playoff at the Dubai World Championship, Ian Poulter dropped his ball, moving his lucky platinum coin bearing the names of his children. He quickly realized his error and reported what had happened to the rules official.

European Tour official Andy McFee—wonder if he is maybe kinfolk—did not even have to go to the rules book to know that “any accidental movement of the ball-marker, which occurs before or after the specific act of marking, including as a result of dropping the ball, regardless of the height from which it was dropped, is not considered directly attributable and results in a one-stroke penalty.”

So now any chance for Poulter to stay alive was gone since he was putting for a par, coming up short and settling for a bogey. Actually, the rules gaffe did not any difference in the final result as Robert Karlson made his three-footer for a birdie and a two-stroke margin.  

Hating to see championships like this and the PGA Championship –remember Dustin Johnson’s gaffe– settled on technicalities, it’s my feeling that this is one of the rules that the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club might want to revisit when they consider revisions in the future. They could give more leeway into what is considered marking or replacing the ball. What else was Poulter in the act of actually doing except replacing the ball behind the marker?

Vice versa, dropping a coin and moving the ball also results in a one-stroke penalty as one of the women participating in the ESPN Golf Connection Tournament of Champions discovered.   A player or his caddie would also be penalized if either one accidentally kicked and moved the marker or the ball.

If a marker is moved by wind, casual water, an outside agency or a fellow competitor in stroke play, there is no penalty.  The same would be true if the coin stuck to a player’s finger or even to the sole of the putter or the bottom of his golf shoe—all considered directly attributable to the act of marking the ball.  The ball must be replaced as close as possible to where it lay.

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