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Poulter's costly drop opens rules debate

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Iain Carter | 16:30 UK time, Sunday, 28 November 2010

The greatest ever European Tour season ended on the turn of a coin. It was as unintentional as it was inappropriate when Ian Poulter was forced to add an unlucky penalty stroke as he prepared to putt for birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death play-off.

The Englishman had accidentally dropped his ball on the coin he uses as a ball marker and the fact that it flipped over and changed position made him liable to the penalty shot that made victory in the season-ending Dubai World Championship a formality for Sweden's Robert Karlsson.

An anti-climactic end to an otherwise thrilling final day of the European Tour season and the incident re-opened the debate on the arcane nature of the rules of golf.

Was it a penalty inappropriate to the crime? Yes, undoubtedly, because there was no intentional breach of the rules, but is this apparent injustice a price worth paying to ensure the game remains the cleanest sport out there?

As I reported Poulter's misfortune on BBC 5 Live the listening panel of footballers and presenter Colin Murray could be heard sniggering at the absurdity of it all.

Here was golf shooting itself in the foot yet again with its stupid rules that are so out of touch with common sense. Add Poulter's misfortune to the long list of incidents where the laws of the game have been made to look an ass.

Recently we've witnessed Dustin Johnson's grounding of a club in the bunker that he thought was a sandy waste at the PGA Championship that cost him a place in a major play-off.

Colin Montgomerie missed out on a £821,000 ($1.28m) payday in China a couple of weeks ago when his caddie erroneously moved an advertising hoarding from the middle of a fairway before putting it back in exactly the correct position.

Another example was Mark Roe's card swapping problems at the 2003 Open Championship - the list goes on and on.

Tournament referee Andy McFee (left) consoles Ian Poulter.

Tournament referee Andy McFee (left) consoles Ian Poulter. Picture: Getty Images.

Here's what the official statement from referee Andy McFee says on Poulter's misfortune: "Decision 20-1/15 is the applicable decision. The answer makes it clear that any accidental movement of the ball marker which occurs before or after the specific act of marking, including as a result of dropping the ball, regardless of the height from which it was dropped, is not considered to be 'directly attributable' to the specific act of marking and results in a one stroke penalty."

Some may consider this pompous legalese that does the game no favours but the rule book and the book of decisions that back it up are the legislative backbone of the game. The language has to be precise to ensure there is no room for argument.

The rule is there to prevent players from dishonestly shoving their marker closer to the hole with an 'accidental' dropping of the ball. It is there to protect every other player in the field.

The victim is the unlucky player who does accidentally and unintentionally shift his ball in the way that Poulter did, but that is the price you pay for the removal of a grey area that the less scrupulous might seek to exploit.

It is this precision that is so often deemed petty that means golfers play the game in the spirit for which the sport is lauded. As soon as Poulter's coin moved he turned to McFee to tell him what happened - that's what golfers do.

In pretty much every other sport players try to find a way to get away with a rules breach, but rarely in golf. Those that do play fast and loose with the regulations are never forgotten and rarely forgiven by their rivals.

That's the culture of the game and it has to be protected at all costs.

It was a shame for this remarkable season to end on such a frustrating note. The European Tour spawned three major winners and a world number one in 2010.

Race to Dubai winner Martin Kaymer is a very special talent, as I blogged after his Dunhill Links Championship win. The 25-year-old German is the most likely player to overhaul Lee Westwood at the top of the rankings next year.

That said, Westwood added a third place in the Dubai World Championship to his runner-up finish in Shanghai without being fully match-tight and the Englishman will take some shifting.

Poulter will look to maintain the momentum that brought him a win and a second place finish in the last two weeks of the season and will no doubt be taking extra care over the process of marking his ball in the 2011 season.


  • Comment number 1.

    Let the fooball masses snigger/laugh/giggle all the way to end. Its the honesty of all pro golfers and the overwhelming majority of all the amatuer players being totally honest and playing within the R&A rules which means we dont have all the cheating/diving/conning/ whingeing by players at officals that most other pro/amatuer sports have. And long may that be. Gordon Fenn

  • Comment number 2.

    I wonder if McFee considered moving his own marker so that the contest could be decided on golfing merit rather than by an arcane rule that as your article says penalises the unlucky player?

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Colin Murray (football pundit my ar$$) should worry more about the mess football is in with all its cheats like Thierry Henry and all the divers week in week out bringing shame on to what was once a great game. Golf should be applauded for sticking to its rules. Ian is very unlucky but thats the way it goes sometimes. Im sure any golfer would rather lose a tournament like that than win it dishonestly by cheating in any way!

  • Comment number 5.

    Did Poulter know the original position of the marker? Could he replace it in the same spot?Answer yes and yes. It is ridiculous therefore that under the rules he is penalised. He could not have gained any advantage from dropping the ball on his marker because he would have replaced it where it previously was. The rules of golf are by and large very sensible and have been honed over hundreds of years. There are however ridiculous rules that penalise the player who has gained no advantage from a perceived transgression. These rules do not stop cheating they simply make the game look silly. By and large pro golfers cannot cheat as there is always a camera or someone watching. Amateur golf is an entirely different kettle of fish, with opportunity to cheat with very little chance of being caught. The fact that the vast majority do not even think about cheating says nothing about the rules, but everything about the state of mind of people playing. The fact that rules about positioning your ball marker exist are entirely inconsequential to stopping cheating. In all honesty I would bet the majority of amateur golfers have no idea this rule exists. Stupid rules are stupid rules good rules good rules, end of story.

  • Comment number 6.

    It has been an unfortunate year for the players in contention for major prizes.....but they all have the obligation to have a good working knowledge of the rules. In this case, it is probable that Poulter will stop using a coin to mark his ball and start using a proper ball marker...which does not move if you drop the ball on top of it by accident. We learn by our mistakes.

    The rules are the rules, they have been formed over many years by the R&A and now with the USGA. The benefits of observing and respecting the rules far outweigh the negatives. I'm talking about personal and sporting integrity. Other sports just don't value this or support this "arcane" idea enough......even Cricket is having a battle with unsporting behaviour.

    Long may we have our rules.... with maybe the odd tweak now and then.

  • Comment number 7.

    Spartan @ 2, relaxamento @ 3 and biggles @ 5:

    You just don't get it do you? Those are the Rules. What is so hard to understand here??? Poulter understands it and he's the one who's unlucky.


    How would Poulter have known exactly where his marker had been? He can't be that precise. Don't be ridiculous. You are symptomatic of so many these days - can't be bothered to abide by the Rules. Go back to your cheating football.

    Frankly, if all you lot keep away from golf the better it'll be.

  • Comment number 8.

    Tough on Poulter who is a player I am slowly beginning to warm too..anyway..they are big boys playing for big money & should know the rules,most do & cop it on the chin as Mr P did.All long time golf fans will remember the likes of Nicklaus in particular & lately Tiger quite rightly using the rules to their advantage & gaining from it,whether it be a free drop or having some marshalls help move boulders out of the way!!Dont start me on Montys interpretations!! Either way,pros or club hacks like me would do better to know them better & get on with this great game safe in the knowledge you wont see football strips or diving on any greeens...

  • Comment number 9.

    Sad that the football fans etc can't see that the cheating in their sports devalues what should be a beautiful game and makes the majority of the population detest all that they stand for.

    Golf and snooker are some of the few sports where players actually have the decency and pride to call fouls on themselves; what a shame that most other sports are able to sleep at night knowing that they win by cheating (which is cheating themseves after all).

  • Comment number 10.

    Spartan007 and Relaxamento - McFee could not move his marker - he is an official - doh! Why should Karlsson give up the advantage Poulter gave to him? They are very experienced professionals in a very lucrative competition. This is not a friendly game, but theri livelihoods, which can end by an injury overnight.

    Also, let's not forget the most important thing, which everyone seems to have overlooked. Poulter was 40 foot away with a breakign sloping putt which he had virtually no chance of holing. Karlsson was 4 and 1/2 feet away with a straight putt similar to the one he had holed on the 73rd hole and he was almost guaranteed to hole it. So even before he holed it, he was very strong favourite. The penalty made Poulter feel terrible and gave him less chance of making his putt - so instead of a 2% chance he had a 1% chance maybe.

    Golf did not shoot itself in the foot. Rules are rules. Poulter won $833,000 for coming second. I don't know why you say that Iain. If its because of how the football journalists reacted, what has that got to do with anything?

    Its a pity Ian suffered a penalty but even if you think he would have had the chance to win twice that much for coming first, it is not golf's fault, but his. He knows the rules and he has only himself to blame for being careless.

    As for the others, the same applies. Dustin Johnson and all the other players were notified by special notices in the locker rooms and the clubhouse that all areas of sand on the course were hazards. This was explained and also accepted by Johnson at the time. Why are you using this fact to criticise golf? He and his caddie were not paying attention - big mistake in a major. They could also have asked a marshall before he took his stance. Montgomerie has been playing for many years and should know better not to move anything on a course without checking with the marshall first. How much money he lost the opportunity to win is irrelevant, why bring in the lowest common demoninator? I feel sorry most of all for Mark Roe, because he wasn't going to get in that position again. You could argue that in professional golf there should be a professional marker so the players don't have to mark and sign their own cards (only the professional marker's) but the other rules you mention are down to how the players behave on the course and you can't criticise the game because a professional player makes a mistake.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes, the rules seem rediculous sometimes, but as you say Ian, that is what makes golf different from the other sports. Respect to Ian Poulter for the action he took.

  • Comment number 12.

    sportmadgav wrote: It has been an unfortunate year for the players in contention for major prizes.....but they all have the obligation to have a good working knowledge of the rules. In this case, it is probable that Poulter will stop using a coin to mark his ball and start using a proper ball marker...which does not move if you drop the ball on top of it by accident. We learn by our mistakes.


    You mean those plastic ones, with the tiny little handles Japanese students use to place them? Sadly, the R&A only allow the use of small metal coin like objects for the professionals. Maybe that was in response to Brian Barnes using a beer can or his bag as a marker?

  • Comment number 13.

    My point about Poulter winning $833,000 for second instead of $1.7 million for coming first is that at that level he has an incentive to be very careful with what he is doing, and although it is a pity that it happened, it is hard to be too outraged because it will not make a significant difference to his life (unlike the Mark Roe situation).

  • Comment number 14.

    Isn't the most appropriate headline

    "Professional sportsman calls foul/penalty on himself", that really is unique

    Not winning the DWC cost Poulter $1m, as others have said it is unlikely that he would have won as he faced a difficult putt with Karlsson close. However in calling the penalty he knew he had lost the small chance he had of forcing another play off hole. But that misses the point, he called the referee over and it was an instant and instinctive reaction.

    At least golfers respect the rules of the game, they may be archaic but they are the rules. The rules of football get updated regularly but does that ensure that elite players abide by them...

    So this year golf has given us some of the highest moments of sporting drama and yet again an example of how professional sportsman should behave.

  • Comment number 15.

    Totally agree with the premese of Iain's Blog. Correct Rule but should only be applied in cases where the ball or marker is "intentionally" moved. Golf needs to change.
    Wonder will Poulter stop using a coin and use a "propor" marker in the future?

  • Comment number 16.

    It would be convenient if Poulter's blunder could have been rectified with the almost certain concurrence of Karlsson.
    But Rules are there for every circumstance and have to be black and white to protect the rest of the field, whether stroke- or match-play.
    Yes, outdated Rules may be updated with due discretion, and they are.

    On another of Iain's points. I don't see how you insert throwaway lines like "those 'that' play fast and loose" etc. Exactly who are they who "play fast and loose"? Woods? Montgomerie?? Singh??? McCumber????
    Am I just being pedantic to suggest that line has no place in this article without examples?

  • Comment number 17.

    #12 TheRBman wrote:

    You mean those plastic ones, with the tiny little handles Japanese students use to place them? Sadly, the R&A only allow the use of small metal coin like objects for the professionals. Maybe that was in response to Brian Barnes using a beer can or his bag as a marker?


    I'm not sure what ball markers you are talking about but the ones that I refer to are plastic with a spike. I am a professional golfer and have been using those in tournaments for the last 15 years. I've never been punished for using a "non-metal" marker. They can be any size. I prefer them because they don't move if a ball passes over them ie someone elses putt.

  • Comment number 18.

    Got to agree with the overwhelming majority of golfers here...unlucky Ian but that's the price to pay for golf being the sport with the moral high ground over all other sports.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ian Poulter - class act.

  • Comment number 20.

    Please don't use football as the benchmark for what is right in sport. Just watched the Norwich vs Ipswich game on BBC1. The 'expert' panel basically condoned the cheating of Holt in the sending off of the Ipswich defender as good professionalism. Same people who thought Henrie didn't cheat against Ireland - 'it was the fault of the ref for not spotting it'. Anyone interested in real sport should be getting behind the Scottish refs who are trying to put a line in the sand for honest play without biased intervention from interested parties.

    If golf is old fashioned - thank God.

  • Comment number 21.

    Amershamhorns - couldn't agree more.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Er, navy blue shorts did you read what I said? I said that golf survives by and large with it's honour not because of the rules but because of the attitude of the people playing. I will refrain from saying your thoughts are ridiculous (as you told me), because I think everyone is entitled to their view. Along with that massive Arsenal fan, Ian Poulter, I do love football, (a game that has virtually the same number of rules as golf), but i much prefer to play golf, and Having read a biography of bobby jones, I have always gone along with his view on cheating.

    One thing I have never understood is the fact that I play with a recently retired professional footballer. I have been to see him quite a few times and he is one of the dirtiest, meanest, foul mouthed footballers I have ever seen, you get him on a golf course and he loses absolutely none of his competitiveness and massive will to win, but never oversteps the mark. Two sports both with a set of rules, the same person trying his best to win, but in one case it is win at all costs, the other is win because you are better. We have talked about why he is so different in approach and can find no real reason why.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dear mods, thanks for your kind removal of my post, which I assume was removed because I suggested that the attitude demonstrated on here by certain posters demonstrated 'bigotry'.

    I can't be bothered to give you Oxford Dictionary definition, as I've got better things to do, so Wikipedia will suffice:

    "A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs."

    Now read post #7 directed at Biggles (who posted a perfectly reasonable argument)

    "You are symptomatic of so many these days - can't be bothered to abide by the Rules. Go back to your cheating football.

    Frankly, if all you lot keep away from golf the better it'll be."

    And you tell me if this doesn't break the 'House Rules' about personal attacks and being offensive?

  • Comment number 25.

    Whether the rule is archaic is another argument all together. Poulter broke the rules (un-intentionally but still broke them) and immediately called the match referee over to tell him what happened. The referee then had no choice but to give the penalty.

    It is very refreshing in the "win at all cost" mentality that is prevalent in sport nowadays.

  • Comment number 26.

    Whilst talking of all the good examples surely Brian Davis deserves a mention. If you talk about life changing decisions (Mark Roe) surely Brian is up there as well. Giving up a chance for a maiden PGA tour title?

  • Comment number 27.

    If the proce to pay for avoiding the cynicism and blatant cheating that infects other sports is the occasional hard luck story, then golf is in a very good position compared with almost every other big money professional sport.

    There is something heartening about seeing a professional sportsman call a foul or penalty on himself - it also makes the job of the officials so much easier when the players show respect for the rules, ethics and custodians of the game.

  • Comment number 28.

    I was there at the 18th green watching it all unfold and had absolutely no idea what was happening. We knew something was up as IP called over the ref but no idea what - clear case of TV viewers being better informed. For what it's worth my view is that rules are rules and all of us - from the big name pros to humble golf tragics such as yours truly - will make sure it doesn't happen to us, whether in a pro tournament or in my case next week's monthly medal. At the end of the day I suppose this is why plastic ball markers are made with an appendage to stick in the ground ? At least they don't flip over. Moral of the story - get rid of your coins and stock up on plastic markers everyone ...

  • Comment number 29.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 30.

    As a more casual watcher of golf than most on here, I guess my opinion is perhaps less valid. However, I can confirm that as silly and penalising as this rule may sound, given that it might otherwise be a grey area that could be exploited, then it is appropriate that it is in force and applied.

    To my mind, golf really is a very honest sport similar to snooker when players call fouls on themselves that no-one could have seen.

    Poulter's honesty may have lost him a few quid but it would have gained him things which are much more valuable - respect and integrity.

    If others think the rules are silly, then they needn't take part in the game or maybe suggest an alternative to the rule.

    As an avid football fan, I know full well the gamesmanship that goes on and any time football fans try and criticise the ref, I just point out that it's the players cheating all the time that is the problem, the ref can only work with what goes on.

    (As a footnote, one might question that if all golfers are that honest, then who would exploit the grey area but that is maybe being pendantic.)

  • Comment number 31.


    "One thing I have never understood is the fact that I play with a recently retired professional footballer. I have been to see him quite a few times and he is one of the dirtiest, meanest, foul mouthed footballers I have ever seen, you get him on a golf course and he loses absolutely none of his competitiveness and massive will to win, but never oversteps the mark. Two sports both with a set of rules, the same person trying his best to win, but in one case it is win at all costs, the other is win because you are better. We have talked about why he is so different in approach and can find no real reason why."

    I really liked the observation and I think this is about behaviour in certain environments. I have watched soldiers sitting around drinking, using very choice language and being very lewd, then completely changing to being polite when a young woman and her child joined their company. This is about expected behaviour in some situations. Football, a sport I have played and watched all my life, has been going backwards in terms of behaviour for years (this may be a reflection on current behaviour in society, I dont know). Golf, a sport I have played and watched for years also, has always had decent behaviour, which i put down to education on the course over the years. Youngsters are taught about the etiquette of golf early on and poor behaviour is not tolerated on golf courses. In football, as poor behaviour (swearing at referees etc) is tolerated, it also has now become the norm on a football field. (I was once sent off in an Army match for saying "s**t" when I missed a sitter. That's the way the forces used to do it, very different from the role models in the professional game)
    I wonder how golfers behave on football pitches? Would Ian Poulter (respect) behave in the same manner in a 5 a side?

  • Comment number 32.

    It really was a very unfortuate end to what was an enthralling morning's golf on the TV - I kept pausing and pausing as I was required outside to build snowmen and take part in snow bal fights (talking of diving and cheating....) but was deytermined to watch the whole thing unfold without knowing the outcome. Westwood will be kicking himself - just like the Open, one daft mistake away from being in the play off, and Casey/Quiros etc all looked in contention for a while, even McLory (sic).

    IP's hoesty cannot be doubted, and it is very different from the Mark Roe, Brian Davis and Dustin Johnson situations. I'll bet that had IP not called it no one elses anywhere would have had a clue - it was not seen on TV (no super HD slow mo's of the coin flipping have emerged yet). Dj and MR were both called - they did not realise themselves, and Brian Davis's transgression was done with a camera directly behind him - shows what a cynic I am, but the infringememtn was so incredibly minor, I do wonder what would have happened if the TV Crew were not right there behind him - even when you see it in slow mo it is so minor to be utterley ridiculous - my conclusion is that IP for all his brashness, the clothes, the predictions etc etc, stands head and shoulders up there - unbelievable sportsmanship.

    Surely the rule can be looked at - if the marker is replaced then surely no discernible advantage is gained ?

    Anyway, what a weekend of sport and the boys in Brisbane topped it offf last night - snowed in, working from home, Dubai seems a very long way away....and as for football, don't get me started, that game was lost to the cheats and the money men a long time ago.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Here’s two ways this could have played out, consider both hypothetical. You decide which one you want to be reading about today.
    SCENARIO 1: Ian Poulter had a long birdie putt on playoff hole. He sinks a monster! Karlsson, somewhat rattled, has a birdie putt also, and he gets one of those 180-degree horseshoe lip-outs that actually sends the ball further away from the hole than where he just putted. Poulter wins! Next day, someone says they saw Poulter’s ball land on his marker. Poults is on a plane at the time going to the U.S. so in the meantime the media are reviewing TV footage and see the incident. Poults lands to a storm of controversy. ‘You’re a cheat, Ian.’ ‘You wanted the money and the world ranking points so bad you cheated.’ ‘No way!’ says Poults. ‘I did drop my ball on the marker but I knew exactly where the marker was originally, so I assumed I could replace without penalty –honest!! Poults has already been given the trophy and the cheque. ‘Golfer cheats’ are the world headlines. Poults disqualified in disgrace. No precedent [that I’m aware of] for this. Who’s to say he wouldn’t have got his par putt anyway even if he called the penalty on himself (hypothetically). And in my scenario, Karlsson managed to do that crazy lip-out and could have ended up missing the next putt as well, so Poults could still have won. ‘Golf in turmoil’, ‘Etiquette of golf smeared for all times’, etc, etc are more headlines written by those happy to see golf’s image tarnished.
    SCENARIO 2: Ian Poulter had a long birdie putt on playoff hole. He drops his ball on his marker, moving the latter. He calls one-shot penalty on himself, takes it like a man, and makes a good effort at the par putt but misses. Karlsson sinks his birdie putt for the win. Turns out that no-one else saw the incident (hypothetical situation, don’t forget), so if Poults hadn’t called the foul on himself, he could possibly have got away with it if he’d sunk his ‘birdie’ putt and Karlsson missed. Poulter gutted with his blunder but his integrity and that of golf is so much more enhanced. Sporting purists compliment him for his honesty. Amateur golfers think, Wow, the spirit of the game really means something to the pros; I’m going to teach my son that even though some rules are somewhat arcane, there’s a bigger picture here that we have to continue to uphold. Meanwhile, other pundits, especially the hacks and commentators on football, are sick to their stomachs that stupid golf is taking the moral high ground yet again and making their cheat-ridden sport look bad. Golfers! Typical namby-pamby bunch, with their holier-than-thou attitude, always with their ‘rules’ and ‘etiquette’ and ‘the spirit of the game is its most integral part’. Pah! Some can barely suppress their contempt for golf’s “sportsmanship”. ‘Why couldn’t he just have not admitted it, cheated, and then claimed all the glory and cash for himself,’ says Thierry Henry, speaking, possibly even tacitly, for the whole world of Football.
    Repeat: Which scenario, as golf fans, are you happier to be reading about this morning?

  • Comment number 35.

    #31 Thistledhub

    Perhaps you're right about the education of etiquette. However, perhaps more tangiably, you soon realise when playing the game of golf that a calm approach is the best way to play a shot. Afterall, how much worse would someone be if they ran between shots? You just don't do it.

    With, for example, football, there's alot of running around and not necessarily alot of thinking straight.

    Not saying that in any way excuses the bad behviour and attitude on a football pitch, just saying that the different approach in golf should benefit you're own game.

  • Comment number 36.

    As someone who watched the event, I think Poulter is takking the pi$$ with his comments that he feels 20 ranking points and $400k frustrated.

    He should have felt that way when he left his sand wedge from 97 yeads 50 foot from the hole and Karlsson put his to within 6 foot.

    All of this rules stuff is just noise that is suckering in the British press and those who did not actually watch the tournament.

    Oh, and what was that, Poults actually missed the putt, left it short you say? Darn, I bet he would have holed it had he not incurred the one shot penalty.... even though at the time Karlsson was yet to putt and could conceivably have missed......

    Pull ya head in Poults ya flamin' galah.

  • Comment number 37.

    While i agree that the correct scenario won out on this occassion, I think you miss Iain Carters point that it is the Rules that need to be tweaked.
    In a case where an unintentional error has occurred, and with the agreement of playing partner and rules offiicial, the rules SHOULD allow for the ball to be replaced without penalty. At present they don't and i believe the rules need to be tweaked to allow for an "accidental mistake".

  • Comment number 38.

    I thoroughly agree that where a human mistake is made, and admitted to, (as IP did)common sense should prevail by way of a 'chat' between all concerned. Mind you, many man-made rules and regulations are in some way flawed and questioned and argued over, and always shall be.
    However, this great game is a continual learning process for us all, and, thank goodness (in singles) there is no such thing as passing the buck, or in trying to con a referee!
    Mind you, it was great viewing, watching IP stalk that final green with a funny grin on his face, showing the agony, rather than the ecstasy he was going through. His natural humanity shone through by way of his own error, and he shall, for next season, have gained more fans through this mistake, more so than if he had won the event.

  • Comment number 39.

    I have the greatest sympathy for Poulter for what seems like a stupid rule. But put yourself in Karlsson's shoes - Poulter's slip was ruled unintenional, he putts for 4 and holes, Karlsson misses and Poulter wins? That would be unfair.

  • Comment number 40.

    Fully agree. My post #34 was only to point out that while the rules exist, they are there to be followed. I do agree with Mr. Carter and yourself that the actual rule in question is probably too strict and I would not be at all alarmed if it was changed to result in a less draconian outcome, i.e. as you say, player still calls 'foul' on himself, but referee, player and 'opponent' agree upon original placement of ball, etc. [Not that the R&A will likely change the rule, but anyway . . .]

    Again, my post is more in support of adherence to the rules while they exist, rather than necessarily supporting the rule that caught out Poulter.

    For calling the foul on himself, I give total credit to Poulter. Yes, the incident does highlight how silly some golf rules are, but ultimately shows the sport in a wonderful light.

  • Comment number 41.

    John C et al,
    You are looking at the Rule as it applies to Karlsson and Poulter; to change the Rules of Golf you have to initiate a Rule that is as unequivocal on the remotest edge of the proverbial Podunk Invitational, with two men and a dog watching, as it is in front of thousands with cameras beaming images around the world.
    There have been enough inferences of pros "mismarking" their ball with thousands looking on to be concerned a rules change might lead to further controversy, or worse; McCumber / Norman in a Tour Championship being just one example.
    Let's review the Rule, by all means. But any change must be unequivocal and for the better. Not sure what that change might be.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think it’s very difficult to compare football and golf like many are doing on this message board. Whilst I don’t condone what footballers do many a time, it must be remembered that a footballer is not playing for himself, he is playing for the fans, his manager and his job. If they don’t get results, they get fired (especially the manager. Golfers on the other hand, only have to answer to themselves (although I am sure some will say their fans as well), however, if they don’t win prize money one week, its only their wives they have to go home and tell, not the 40,000 people booing and chanting outside, or the board of directors expecting a return on their investment.

    Again, please don’t take this as an excuse for the behaviour of some footballers, but they work under completely different circumstances that sometimes creates this tendency to bend the rules.

    And to respond to the original blog, the rules are there to protect the players first and foremost and it was brilliant of poults to own up, although I think most golfers would. Iain, do you think maybe some rules should change so they become the discretion of the referee. He looks at the rules and decides whether he thinks the player has taken an unfair advantage of the situation and can enforce the penalty, however if he thinks it was an accident and there is no advantage, let them play on?

  • Comment number 43.

    Have read the first 40 odd comments with some interest, and a degree of disappointment.

    I can't understand why IP can possibly be criticised of holding his hand up to having broken the rules (however strict or silly the rule may be considered by some).

    I also fail to understand how we can compare Golf with Football. The latter is played on a small area between two opposing sides with a referee there who has sole responsibility for making judgements on when the rules have been broken. A professional golf tournement is played by almost 150 players over 4 days over a comparably huge geographic area.

    Having the ability for a degree of self regulation is central and necessary for Golf, not necessary for football, despite the fact that in some instances it would be nice !.

    I congratulate IP for his honesty and integrity, and his instinctive refusal to win by any means.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think everyone agrees that Poulter did the right thing in calling himself. I think everyone agrees that golf in general is played with a high degree of integrity at the highest

    Anyone have a problem then with Robert Karlsson being quoted as saying (honest though he may have been) "I was really pleased to see him lose a shot that way"?

    I did.

  • Comment number 45.

    Would have helped if I had included the word "level" at the end of that paragraph!

  • Comment number 46.

    Interesting to read all these comments. As a golf pro and qualified rules official let me put my slant on this. I'm not Poulter's greatest fan to be fair, but I can only admire him for his actions a la Brian Davis at Hilton Head. His 'silly' comment was, I am guessing, at the 14th time of being asked how frustrated he was - I think it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out 'very' for themselves. As for the Rules, they are reviewed at regular intervals, 2012 being the next time any changes will be made. And changes are made; to quote one exampled mentioned above Mark Roe and the mad Swedish Parnevik would now not be disqualified for marking their own card rather than that of their playing partner. This rule was reviewed in the light of that high-profile incident and a change was made for the 'common good'. So to make a throw-away comment of the 'they'll never change the rules' is harsh and untrue. One of the golden rules of the putting green is that the ball when marked and lifted must be replaced in exactly the same spot. Once the marker is moved it is impossible to EXACTLY determine that spot. Harsh when moved accidentally, but it prevents any foul play, and if it is spotted the penalty is clear. For this reason we don't get stealing a few inches on an important putt (compare to ball placement for free kicks, stealing yards at throw-ins etc etc) and the results are there for all to see. I'm sure the R & A and USPGA will look at this and decide whether a change need be made, but please don't hide behind the easy, cheap shot of saying the rules are arcane, because they are not, they simply make it a very honest sport and I wouldn't have it any other way. Are the rules perfect? Of course not, but they are clear, respected and honoured. Would you really have it any other way?

  • Comment number 47.

    Every sport has rules, the rules are there to gauge the sport. Its like the first bloke in Rugby who picked up the football, it's good sport but it ain't football.

    Golf has an unwritten rule of caught once cheating and your out, amateur or professional.

    Well done Iain, a true honest gentleman.

    There are alot of unfair situations in golf, they happen, its rub of the green, and they happen to us all, you just have to take the hit when it occurs.

  • Comment number 48.

    It is sad that in sport these days we applaud loudly the acceptance of the rules. Poulter's admission and acceptance is respectful of the game.

    Poulter's has a massive following and I never understood why. To me he appears to be a pruning peacock with moderate golfing success, but his recent challenges for titles has meant the tv golf coverage has shown more of him. I watched his win in HK and add life to a round of great golf (Westwood and Poulter's 3rd round in Dubai) and I must say I am a convert; his golf speaks louder than his clothing which is saying something, and I will be keen to follow his 2011 progress and probably more tolerant of his future attire.

  • Comment number 49.

    Hi Iain,

    Your article has the line 'The rule is there to prevent players from dishonestly shoving their marker closer to the hole with an 'accidental' dropping of the ball.'

    Yet I read everywhere Golf has honour other sports don't and we are more likley to call penalties on ourselves, than gain through cheating.

    Surley those two statements are at odds then?

    I know I play by the rules and call penalties when incurred, but that's because I want to track how I'm improving as a Golfer, I'm not fussed about winning.

    Is it the case the golfers who are intent on winnig, need rules like this to keep them in check?

    I think this is true and I presume this is what kwiniaskagolfer is aluding to (apologies if I'm wrong kwini)

  • Comment number 50.

    I think the great thing about the Rules Of Golf is that they're meant to be unequivocal in their application, and they should be written so that no golfer, at any level but especially pros, is easily tempted to break them.
    They have been updated in response to specific events (Cink in the bunker, Azinger (I think) with the moving of the flag, the Parnevik / Roe incident), but it's difficult to see how this rule might fairly be changed. Would defer to "Ashgolf"'s excellent comments and expertise for ideas.
    And I didn't think much of Iain's note about pros who "play fast and loose with the regulations" without naming names. Empty rhetoric in my opinion. There have been celebrated incidents (hopefully one-offs) but no inference that some pros are frequently in violation as far as I know.

  • Comment number 51.

    I'm guessing there may be a reluctance to change this paricular Rule may be to do with the interpretation of 'accidentally' and the possible effects of making that differentiation. I'm at a conference next week so will ask and let you know if there's anything of note to report. I feel the basic 'black & whiteness' of the Rules and the generally low levels of interpretation needed to employ them as an official help make the sport so 'clean'. There always have been a tiny minority who have attempted to abuse the Rules deliberately, some high profile, but they are generally shunned within the sport by the vast majority who play the game with the level of honesty passed down by tradition that remains, I'm glad to say, despite the huge rewards on offer, unlike other sports we have to 'endure' these days.

  • Comment number 52.

    Difficult to see how they can change it, for stroke play at least; I can see a possibility for Match Play but can't see why anyone would want to change.
    Do you really think there's a "tiny majority" abusing rules? Only person I can think of whose integrity has been called into question more than once on the PGA Tour is Marco Dawson, and that was citing players (Uresti and Chamblee if I recall correctly, must be a Texas thing) for unwitting infringements AFTER they'd signed their cards.
    Appreciate the update . . . .

  • Comment number 53.

    I've played golf quite poorly for over 30 years, having had my first lessons with a few friends from a teacher who played golf regularly.

    He taught us the basics of swing and ball striking for many weeks before we were allowed near a small public course, and then accompanied us to ensure we observed the proper etiquette and became aware of the rules as we learned to actually play golf.

    I've played football, also, but was never taught in the same way, and remember the bellowing from the sidelines to win-win-win more than any nurturing of "respect" for the game, opponents or match referees.

    There are, surely, honest footballers out there as there must be dishonest golfers, but in both categories they make up a miserly small percentage.

    Well Done, Ian Poulter; I'm so glad to see you reflect the attitude of the vast majority of those of us who have played the great game of Golf.

  • Comment number 54.

    The rules are the rules, ridiculous pedantry is part of golf's unique charm. We can't have players - Poulter or anybody else - moving their markers while dropping the ball; allow that and there's no knowing where it will end.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ lovegolf0712

    You've completely missed the tone of Iain's comments about " shooting itself in the foot...".

    The incidents cited were done so as examples the sniggerers would use to show that the rules are stupid.

    Iain clearly states his own view on the matter with the words:

    "...but that is the price you pay for the removal of a grey area that the less scrupulous might seek to exploit.

    It is this precision that is so often deemed petty that means golfers play the game in the spirit for which the sport is lauded. As soon as Poulter's coin moved he turned to McFee to tell him what happened - that's what golfers do."

  • Comment number 56.

    @ kwiniaskagolfer

    Just live lovegolf0712 you have also missed the tone of one of Iain's comments.

    When he says "Those that do play fast and loose with the regulations are never forgotten and rarely forgiven by their rivals." there's no implication that Iain thinks there are pros actually doing this.

    This comment resonates with all club golfers up and down the country/world. The worst possible accusation you could level at someone in your club would be 'cheat!'. People who are labeled as such (whether rightly or wrongly) tend to have that label stick for many, many years.

  • Comment number 57.

    Another case of a silly unjustified rule is surely that of someone who is putting asking a fellow competitor to attend the flag (often done for a long putt) and they dont remove the flag before the ball falls into the hole. The putter is penalised! Surely the person who attends the flag should be penalised otherwise they could deliberately pretend the flagstick was stuck knowing that they could gain an extra strokes advantage? I dont understand the logic of the rule.


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