Taking The Long View

Ian Poulter lost the Dubai World Championship today because of an arcane rule of golf. He had played brilliantly over four days at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, making only three bogeys for the entire week. He shot: 69, 66, 69, 70. But Robert Karlsson caught him on the last hole in regulation play with a birdie on 18.

They played the 18th again and both made birdie after superb, 4-foot wedges to the green. Playing the 18th again, Poulter left his approach shot to the green some 25 to 30 feet short of the hole. Karlsson hit his to 4 feet again.

We didn’t actually see what came next; just its aftermath. Poulter marked his ball, lifted it and gave it to the caddie to clean. The caddie returned the ball to him and in the process of replacing the ball, Poulter accidently dropped it on his marker, it flipped up in the air and moved from its original position. Here’s the rule:

If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of lifting the ball under a Rule or marking its position, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of marking the position of or lifting the ball. Otherwise, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under this Rule [20-1].

Since Poulter moved the ball-marker in the process of replacing his ball, not lifting or marking it, it was a one-stroke penalty. Suddenly, his long putt was for par, not birdie. He made a good effort that came up short, Karlsson knocked his 4-footer in again: game over.

So where do you go from there? The immediate reaction is to steam over the fact that some obscure element of a rule cost you the Dubai World Championship. I mean, what’s the difference between marking and lifting versus replacing? Isn’t it all part of the same process? Of course it is. Shouldn’t this rule be changed to correct this egregious difference without distinction? Of course it should. This is completely unfair. No, it’s just what the rule is now.

So Poulter can take comfort—once he gets over the sting of it—by taking the long view. He didn’t lose the championship because he played badly, he played brilliantly. And in the long afterglow of this affair, he has to ask himself what the odds were on him making his 25-footer since we know that Karlsson made his 4-footer.

So you dwell on the impressive, steady play, the €606,897 ($803,471) prize money for second place and the fact that this will surely bump him higher up the World Rankings from his current 11th place. Take the long view.

Plus, Tiger Wood’s, Chevron World Challenge is coming up this week. Played at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks (LA), California, it features a super-elite, invitation-only field of just 18 players. Poulter is one of those players.

So if he can manage all of the time zones from Dubai to LA and somehow be fresh enough to continue his excellent play, winning there could be a nice validation. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you take the long view.

Guys like Poulter are expert at doing just that.


Congratulations to Robert Karlsson for coming back from a second-round 75 and winning the tournament. Great things happen when you expect to play well.

And congratulations to Martin Kaymer for his T-13 finish and locking up the season-long Race to Dubai (Leading Money Winner). It’s a fine accomplishment to have played so steadily all year long in the face of the blossoming talent on the European Tour.

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