Sunday was an exciting day in the Rules Guy household, as Ian Poulter lost the Dubai World Championship to Sweden's Robert Karlsson on the second playoff hole, largely due to a one-stroke penalty that the Englishman called on himself. After eyeing a 40-foot birdie putt, Poulter dropped his ball onto his "lucky" marker, flipping the mark over. Poulter was penalized one stroke, effectively taking all of the pressure off Karlsson. When Poulter left his par putt short, Karlsson made his three-footer for birdie and nailed down the tournament.The Rules Guy's inbox was filled with questions from eagle-eyed fans who were SURE that a player who accidently moves his ball marker is not deserving of a penalty. After all, it's a matter of clumsiness, not cheating. It is generally true that you can’t be penalized for accidentally moving your ball marker, but that rule of thumb comes with a big caveat.According to Rule 20-3a, there is no penalty for a player who accidently moves his marker as long as it is "directly attributable to the specific act of placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker." This is the litmus test that Poulter failed, as he dropped his ball while he was standing over the marker, not while placing or removing it. The penalty may have seemed draconian, but the ruling was correct--a one-stroke penalty for breaching Rule 20-1.
This is one of those freak things that never happens...until it does, and kudos to Mr. Poulter for not only recognizing the infraction, but reporting it immediately. Normally I would recommend that Poulter consider changing to a slightly smaller lucky mark, but with career earnings of more than $21 million, I don't think he's having much trouble in the luck department.
(Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)