A harsh lesson in etiquette and rules for the teenagers
To win you must know the rules as well as your swing, says Nick Wright.
Everywhere you look on Tour these days, a rules controversy is ready and waiting to rear its ugly head. In the past few months alone we’ve had Lexi Thompson and Jon Rahm incorrectly marking their balls on the green. Curiously, Thompson incurred a four-shot penalty for her breach, which ultimately cost her the ANA Inspiration title since she was leading by four shots at the time, while Rahm who enjoyed a similar lead at the Irish Open at the time of his transgression was awarded the benefit of the doubt and let off without penalty.
But the rules incidents haven’t been limited solely to the professional game. In the semifinal of the recent US Girls’ Junior Championship, Erica Shepherd and Elizabeth Moon’s head-tohead match finished all-square and had gone to extra holes. At the 19th, Shepherd made par, while Moon had a birdie putt from around 5ft to advance to the finals. However, Moon missed the putt, leaving a six-inch tap-in. And that’s where the fun and games started.
Disappointed, the 17-year-old Moon scooped her ball back and tried the first putt again – as she’s allowed to do in match play. It was at that point Shepherd stepped in and said, “I didn’t say that was good.” Moon was given a one-shot penalty for moving her ball (under Rule 18-2) since it hadn’t been conceded and you can’t concede a putt after the fact. As a result, she lost the hole and the match.
Bad etiquette or poor rules knowledge? A bit of both. First, a putt of that length should have been conceded. Realising the magnitude of her actions, Shepherd retroactively tried to concede the putt and convince the rules official to back off. She told reporters, “I thought that since I would have given it to her, it would be just fine. We both tried to get it to where that putt was given to her but it’s the Rules of Golf. There’s no afterthe-fact. You can’t.”
At the same time, Moon discovered that a gimme isn’t a gimme until it’s actually been conceded to you. It’s unlikely she’ll ever rake a ball away from the hole without a verbal acknowledgement that it’s ‘good’ from an opponent for the rest of her golfing life. It was a tough learning experience that there’s far more to competitive golf than making pars and birdies.
‘Moon discovered a gimme isn’t a gimme until it’s been conceded’
Lexi Thompson’s rules violation cost her a major