Sergio Garcia congratulates Rickie Fowler on the 18th hole of their match at the Accenture Match Play. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Dale Jackson is Golf Canada's Rules Chair, and he was the walking referee assigned to the quarterfinal match between Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
After the event concluded, he penned a blog post outlining the details of Garcia's decision to give Fowler a 17-footer for par to halve the 7th hole of their match. Garcia proceeded to lose the match 1-down, but said he didn't regret the concession, adding that golf was a "gentleman's game."
The story begins on the 6th hole. Garcia's tee shot into the par-3 landed near a leaky sprinkler head and "upwards of 100" bees were swarming around the pooled water.
Sergio went to his ball, saw a number of bees buzzing about and called me over. He explained he had had a very bad experience with bees in the past and wanted to know if he had to play his next shot with the bees flying around him. Fortunately, the rules are not without heart and players are entitled to free relief when confronted with a “dangerous situation”. In fact, Decision 1-4/10 deals with bees specifically and I was able to help Mr. Garcia determine the nearest point that the bees were not an issue and he dropped his ball within 1 club length of that spot, no nearer the hole.
Easy fix, right? Not so fast. Sergio, his caddie and the rules official walking around the bee-infested area caused a stir within the bee community and the insects proceeded to invade Garcia's new drop area. Sergio addressed the ball a couple of times, but was still too close to the bees for comfort. Another drop took place free from any bee-related activities, which caused a further delay while Fowler waited on the green to attempt his birdie putt. Fowler missed, Garcia got up-and-down for his par and they halved the hole.
The match then moved onto the seventh hole. Sergio having a 6 foot putt and Rickie having about 17 feet. Rickie had begun his pre-shot routine and was crouched behind his ball when he and Sergio began talking. The next thing the gallery and I saw, was both players picking up their ball markers and walking off the green. It quickly became clear that both Sergio and Rickie had made use of Rule 2-4, which sets, in part, “A player may concede his opponent’s next stroke at any time, provided the opponent’s ball is at rest.” In language most golfers are used to, they had agreed their putts were “good for good”.
Jackson noted after the match that he found out the bees were a type of African bee that could be dangerous and aggressive, so Sergio's fear of the swarm was justified.
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