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As the Garcia-Kuchar concession affair reminds us, the Rules of Golf do not allow for intent

In the wake of Saturday’s concession kerfuffle involving Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar, the Twittersphere got busy doing what it does best: assigning blame. But we’re not here to pass judgment on either player. We’re here to get a handle on what happened, and to clarify the rules of golf that went into effect. In case you need updating, the drama arose during Saturday’s quarterfinal round at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Garcia lost the seventh hole to Kuchar after back-handing—and missing—an itty-bitty putt. Though Kuchar afterwards acknowledged that he would have conceded the shortie to Garcia, that’s not what matters. What matters is that Kuchar didn’t concede it. That’s why the stroke counts. Let’s go to the letter of the law. Under Rule 3.2 b, which covers match-play concessions, a concession is only valid when it’s clearly communicated. That communication can be verbal. It can also be carried out by an action or a gesture, such as a hand-wave that tells your opponent, “That’s good. Pick it up.” That part of the rule—allowing actions or gestures to communicate concessions—was made explicit in the revised Rules of Golf that went into effect in 2019. Bottom line: there’s more than one way to concede a putt. But on Saturday in Austin, Garcia raked at his ball before Kuchar had said or done anything to indicate that the putt was good.

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