Obscure rule surfaces on consecutive holes in WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play semifinals

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Tim Schmitt
·2 min read
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AUSTIN, Texas — As Matt Kuchar lined up his putt on the 12th hole during Sunday’s semifinal match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play he did so under an odd scenario, knowing that his opponent was standing well behind him — still lining up a wedge.

The reason was a quirky match play rule that surfaced at Austin Country Club when Scottie Scheffler put his second shot into the water on the par-5 12th hole. Kuchar had already hit his second shot and was sitting on the front of the green.

Under the rules of match play, however, Scheffler’s ball is considered closer to the hole because of where it was resting. That meant Kuchar had to putt while Scheffler stood 77 yards from the pin with a wedge in hand.

Golfweek’s rules expert, Ron Gaines, said this is a scenario that rarely presents itself.

“It’s an oddball, for sure,” Gaines said. “But this is determined by where the ball comes to rest, not where it crosses the margin of the penalty. Think of it as a penalty without water. You might go up and see if you can play it. Technically, Kuchar is farther away, because it’s where the ball is resting, not where they’re going to play it from.”

Scheffler was 2 up at the time, but lost the hole and moved on to the risk/reward par-4 13th.

Incredibly, the exact same scenario played out again as Scheffler’s drive landed just shy of the green in the water hazard.

Kuchar was now 90 yards from the flag and Scheffler stood well behind him, waiting to play from 177 yards.

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Kuchar pulled the match all square after the peculiar two-hole stretch.

Nick Faldo said on the Golf Channel broadcast to rules official Steve Rintoul that he was unfamiliar with the rule.

“I’ve got Paul Azinger in the tower, we’ve been match players now for 40 years and didn’t even know this was a match play rule, and considering we’ve been calling the match play all these years, this is the first time I’ve experienced this kind of situation,” Faldo said.

The falls under USGA rule 6.4: Order of Play When Playing Hole.
Under the rules, had Scheffler played his shot first, Kuchar would have had the option to cancel the stroke. In other words, if Scheffler put his ball in tight to the flag, Kuchar could have nullified the shot.

The rule states:

In match play, the order of play is fundamental; if a player plays out of turn, the opponent may cancel that stroke and make the player play again.