There are so many rules in golf that it’s easy to overlook how important they can be in tournament play. When you move from that casual round with your buddies to competition, it’s important to know the rules and how to apply them.
In the Southeastern Conference’s recent fall opener, the Blessing’s Collegiate Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Kentucky sophomore Alex Goff stood on the 18th tee of the final round with a four-shot lead and it looked like medalist honors were in the bag. All that changed when the unthinkable happened.
Goff, who was playing in a fivesome with his teammates, believed he was the only player using a Titleist 1 with the Kentucky logo. As luck would have it, all five players hit their tee shots into the same fairway bunker on the final hole. Goff then ended up hitting the wrong ball. The resulting two-stroke penalty gave him a triple bogey and his lead shrank to one stroke with a final score of 76.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s Hunter Wolcott birdied the par-3 17th hole and Goff’s lead evaporated. Wolcott split the fairway on 18 and his approach ended up 25 feet from the hole. He needed a birdie to win and a par to tie.
The interesting thing is that in NCAA tournaments there is no sudden death. In case of a tie, the player with the lowest final round total is declared the winner. In this case, with a par, Wolcott and Goff would be tied at six under. But Wolcott’s final round 69 would give him the title. Fortunately for Goff, Wolcott three putted and Goff won the event.
When you watch PGA Tour events on TV you typically get to see some of the leaders tee off on the first hole to start their rounds. What you don’t see is that before the first shot is struck, all players in the group get together and show each other how they mark their ball. This is the case in virtually all competitive events at the professional and amateur level.
Sometimes it seems playing by the rules can be a burden in a casual round. But it’s often the case that the player who knows the rules and plays by them often has the advantage over their competitors. If you ever get good enough to play tournament golf, know the rules. It will surely pay off some day.