The ending of Englishman Matthew Southgate’s final round at the DAP Championship on Sunday was the stuff of nightmares.
Southgate, who was already under pressure as he struggles to retain his Tour card, was the victim of a freak putting incident when a leaf blew across the path of his ball, striking it and causing it to change direction.
Southgate was left aghast by what had happened, but accepted it as part of the game and carried on with his round.
Unfortunately for Southgate, that was the worst thing he could possibly have done.
As a result of his continuation, Southgate was handed a hefty four-shot penalty, which saw him plummet down the rankings to eventually finish the championship way down in 64th place, puncturing a massive hole in his hopes of retaining his Tour card.
The rules state that Southgate should have replaced the ball on its original spot, taking the shot again, and cancelling the shot that was disrupted by the errant leaf.
However, he simply continued on with the hole and the round, and by the end of it, was punished two shots for playing from the wrong spot and two for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Web.com’s vice president of rules Jim Duncan clarified the incident.
He said: “Matthew’s putt 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.
“The result was the following: Two penalty strokes for a breach of 19-1 (Matthew did not cancel and replay the stroke, see Decision 19-1/3) plus an additional two penalty strokes for a breach of 6-6d (see the exception for Rule 6-6d).”
Earlier in the week, Lexi Thompson suffered a similar blow during the third round of her ANA Inspiration round.
A TV viewer spotted the infraction and after informing the Golf channel, Thompson was slapped with the dreaded four-shot penalty, but only once she was deep into her final round and leading the tournament at the same time.
For Southgate, it was one almighty blunder that could cost him dearly in the coming weeks and months.
Having entered the DAP Championship in ninth place in the Web.com finals, a four-tournament series that sees the top 25 winners retain their cards, Southgate’s capitulation in his final round run in, that included a bogey and triple bogey to accompany the penalty, saw him fall all the way down to 20th in the overall standings.
Should he fail to pick himself back up after a terrible week, he could be in danger of dropping out of the top 25 in the Web.com standings.