Here is a heartbreaking rules reminder about gimme putts in match play golf: Never pick up your golf ball unless you’re sure it has been conceded.
A bizarre rules violation caused heartbreak for a 17-year-old golfer during the US Girls’ Junior tournament in Missouri.
And it’s probably worth making sure you understand this rule so you don’t ever make the same mistake when playing match play yourself. Read on.
Elizabeth Moon had a 4-foot birdie putt to win her semi-final match at the 19th hole against Erica Shepherd. After she missed the putt, Moon assumed the next short putt would be conceded and raked the ball back with her putter to practice the putt again before moving on to the 20th hole.
The problem was, the putt was never conceded as Shepherd pointed out.
“I didn’t say that was good.” Shepherd said.
Then things got awkward. See the video below. The awkward situation starts around 1:45 mark.
As the officials moved in to make a ruling, Shepherd explained that should would have given her the putt but just hadn’t done so yet but the officials knew the rules and were having none of it.
You can’t concede a putt after it’s been played, or in this case moved and Moon was handed a one-stroke penalty for moving her ball (under rule 18-2), subsequently losing the hole and the match.
Shepherd was inconsolable after the match while Moon seemed to take the ruling well considering the enormity of the situation.
“I thought that since I would have given it to her, it would be just fine,” said Shepherd. “I feel awful, and I feel like I lost, and I want to cry. I feel bad for her, but I couldn’t do anything.”
“We both tried to get it to where that putt was given to her but it just – it’s the Rules of Golf. There’s no after-the-fact. You can’t.”
Shepherd was in tears before her final the next day but went on to win the match and the US Girls’ Junior trophy.
There has been a lot of debate about what happened here but two things have become clear.
Shepherd did not bend the rules to try and get an advantage to win the match. And Moon just made a mistake and rushed to get the ball back after missing the putt.
Once this had all happened, officials could only follow the rules of golf which meant Moon had to be awarded the one-stroke penalty.
You may recall a similar incident happening at the Solheim Cup when American Allison Lee picked up a short putt believing it had been given.
But Suzann Pettersen adamantly said she had not conceded the putt that lead to some emotional scenes.
Let’s use this is a reminder never to pick up the golf ball unless you are certain the next shot has been conceded.