I would certainly like to see more of the events on the big stage played at match play and always look forward to the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. I’ll stick close to the television every day to see what happens as the game’s top players are faced with many “do-or-die” situations from day one. On a given day over 18 holes, any of the 64 players can beat the other, especially if they get a hot putter. You can shoot 66, but be eliminated when your opponent does one better. Vice versa, you can still win on an off day if you just beat one guy.
Players and fans and even rules officials have to realize that the rules are a little different. The usual two-stroke penalties in stroke play call for lost of hole in match play.
In match play, players can practice on the course prior to play or take practice putts on the greens of the last hole played.
Violations of the 14-club limit call for lost of hole, maximum of two, in match play. The penalty is applied to the status of the match at the time the error is discovered. If the offending player is 2 up, he’s now even.
Strokes played out of turn can be recalled by an opponent. That’s what Annika Sorenstam once did in the Solheim Cup when her opponent chipped in and was closer to the hole than she was. In the Ryder Cup, Seve Ballestoros once asked Tom Lehman to replace his ball close to the cup after he had tapped in, wanting to use the marker to assist with the line of his putt to win the hole.
An opponent has the choice of recalling your shot if you happened to play from the wrong tee. If it’s a bad one, he can just let you go ahead and continue play. That’s what happened in a Northern Texas PGA event when a pro hit out of bounds from the wrong tee. He then had to go drop his ball, not tee it up, and play three from the correct teeing ground.
Playing a second ball is not an option in match play. The two players have to find a solution at the time before going to the next tee, calling for a referee or rules official to assist them. The referee’s decision is final.
A player can not wait to report a violation after the players have gone to the next tee either. That once happened in the Ryder Cup when Ballestoros noticed one of the American players had played the wrong ball in the alternate shot format. Ballestoros failed to do it when it occurred and therefore the claim was not allowed.
Rules officials have to remember the format, too. A player might take more of a risk to play a certain shot in match play than he would in stroke play. That’s what happened in the 2010 Accenture event when Ian Poulter asked for relief from a temporary immovable obstruction when his ball was in a bush. After looking at where he would have to take his drop, Poulter chipped out any way, but made his point to the rules officials after first being told he had no choice.