The US pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed were disqualified from the 12th hole of their match against Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen after match referee Andy McFee called a penalty on Spieth for picking up Louis Oosthuizen’s still moving ball.
The penalty put the International pair 1up at a crucial time in the match and predictably started a storm of controversy on social media.
Despite pleas from both the International and American players and assistant captains, McFee insisted he had no choice but to enforce the rule.
Spieth picked up Oosthuizen’s ball after the South African’s eagle attempt from the back of the green raced several feet past the cup.
The US had already conceded Day’s birdie after he chipped close and Spieth faced a short putt to halve the hole, meaning Oosthuizen’s next shot was meaningless.
In an obvious attempt to save Oosthuizen or his caddie a long walk to retrieve the ball, Spieth stopped it before it came to rest, scooped it up with the back of his putter and threw it back to his opponent.
However, under Rule 1-2 - "A player must not (i) take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play or (ii) alter physical conditions with the intent of affecting the playing of a hole."
McFee informed Spieth he had breached the rule and enforced the penalty, loss of hole in matchplay, to put the US side 1 down.
Reed and Spieth went on to win the match but the ruling, while correct, is being seen by many as yet another black eye for the game in the wake of other misunderstood rules controversies this year.
Lexi Thompson’s four shot penalty for incorrectly marking her ball in the third round of the year’s first major then signing an incorrect scorecard after not adding the penalty caused a storm of protest.
Last week England’s Matthew Southgate was penalised four strokes on the Web.com Tour after his birdie effort at the DAP Championship hit a leaf and was deflected off line on a green.
Instead of replacing the ball to its original place and replaying the shot without penalty, a frustrated Southgate tapped in from where the ball came to rest and was penalised for playing from a wrong place.
Similar to Thompson, Southgate was also assessed a further two strokes because he signed his scorecard without adding the original penalty.
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