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Matthew Southgate Assessed Four Shot Penalty after Leaf Strikes Ball

By: | Mon 25 Sep 2017 | Comments

In just the latest example of golf's regularly baffling rules tripping up an unsuspecting player, Matthew Southgate - the popular Englishman who is attempting to secure a PGA Tour card - found himself the victim of a four-shot penalty following a bizarre incident that saw his ball struck by a leaf as he attempted to hole a putt.

Playing in the DAP Championship - part of the Web.Com Tour's Finals - the 28-year-old was facing a short putt on the 15th hole, which appeared to be on course to drop before a wayward leaf blew across the green and knocked the ball wide of his target. Footage of this astonishingly unlucky moment quickly spread across social media, but it only later became known that his unfortune had turned to dismay as he was assessed a significant penalty after the round. 

According to the USGA's Rule 19-1, Southgate was required to replay that putt from its original position before the leaf struck the ball. Shaking off the disappointment, the man from Southend had simply tapped in what he was left with. He was subsequently given a two-shot penalty for failing to retake the first putt, and a further two for signing an incorrect scorecard, similar to what happened to Lexi Thompson during the first women's major of the year at the ANA Inspiration. 

Explanation was offered on Twitter, with an official confirming the penalty."Matthew's stroke from the putting green was in motion when it was deflected by a leaf in motion and the putt was missed. Rule 19-1 requires for the stroke to be cancelled and replayed. Matthew proceeded to tap in his next putt and continued on with his round. The committee was made aware of the situation after Matthew signed his scorecard and prior to the close of competition."

Such are the rules, but it once again raises the question as to why the game is predisposed to punish golfers for innocuous mistakes that are absolutely not advantageous to them. The R&A and USGA have reviewed and attemted to simplify the rule book ahead of 2019, but incidents like this are a reminder that several issues are still to be addressed by the governing bodies. Golf appears petty and needlessly infuriating when players find themselves on the end of these infractions.

However, for Matt Southgate - who finished in a tie for sixth at the Open Championship in July - the focus will now have to be on claiming a tour card on the sport's most prestigious and lucrative circuit. The leading 25 players on the end-of-season money list will fulfill that objective, and the Englishman was sitting in ninth last week. But the crashing affect of the penalty has seen him drop to 20th ahead of the upcoming finale. 

For a young golfer who has overcome the terror of cancer and continued to make progress, Southgate's already large group of supporters will only swell following this misfortune as he seeks to make a career for himself in the United States.

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Tags: rules

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