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Hatton's Headache in Austin March 28, 2017


In the group stage of the PGA Tour’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship last Friday at Austin (Texas) Country Club, Tyrrell Hatton was competing in a three-man sudden-death playoff to determine who would advance to the Round of 16.

On the putting green of the first extra hole, Hatton was preparing to putt for par when he grounded his putter behind his ball and caused it to move. In the past, Hatton would have incurred a one-stroke penalty and replaced his ball before playing his next stroke. However, the PGA Tour adopted the new Local Rule, which the USGA and The R&A implemented on Jan. 1, 2017, giving the Committee the option to eliminate the penalty for accidental movement of a ball on the putting green.

The Local Rule still requires that the ball, when accidentally moved on the putting green, be replaced in its original location if the player caused the movement. In this case, Hatton caused the ball’s movement, so he needed to replace it, without penalty, before playing his next stroke.  However, since Hatton played the ball from its new location, he incurred a penalty for playing from a wrong place (Rule 20-7).

The penalty for playing from a wrong place is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play. Interestingly, even though this WGC event was conducted at match play, any playoff with three or more players was conducted under stroke-play rules. Therefore, Hatton was penalized two strokes, turning his par into a double bogey and opening the door for Charles Howell III to advance to the Round of 16.

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