There were shades of the Matt Kuchar-Sergio Garcia 2019 controversy on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Only this time, it didn’t cost anyone a hole.
Two years ago, as you may recall, Kuchar approached a rules official after Garcia missed a tap-in par putt that he assumed had been conceded. But Kuchar hadn’t actually verbalised the concession, which is necessary under rule 3-2(b), and the rules official deemed that Garcia had lost the hole.
A similar situation played out between Kevin Na and world No.1 Dustin Johnson on the 11th green at Austin Country Club. Johnson, who was 1 up at the time, had an eight-footer for a birdie that would have won the hole. The putt lipped out on the high side, and Johnson quickly picked up the ball to head to the 12th tee.
Not so fast! Apparently Na, who lost his first two matches and was thus already guaranteed not to advance past the group stage, did not actually say “it’s good” or something to convey the message. So he called Johnson back and explained why he needed to wait for Na to affirmatively concede the hole, rather than assume the putt is good without actual confirmation.
Kevin Na giving DJ a lesson on scooping a ball before it's officially conceded:
Na: "I know it's this, but you still have to wait until I say something." pic.twitter.com/GVJhXMBMXI
— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) March 26, 2021
It was a tense exchange, with both caddies listening intently as Johnson insisted that the putt was so short, it never crossed his mind that it wouldn’t be conceded.
“I know it’s like this,” Na said, as picked up by greenside microphones, “but you still have to wait until I say something.”
Johnson tersely apologised and began walking to the next tee. Na then affirmed that they had halved the whole – or, in other words, that he would not enforce any sort of penalty on Johnson for the quick-rake. Which he could have, under rule 3-2(b), which clearly states that “a concession is only made when it is clearly communicated.”
It was a no harm, no foul situation in the end – but it’s not often you see two pros talking intensely, in close proximity to each other, about a rules situation. The vagaries of matchplay, as they say.