An almost unknown rule for arbitration error

This is what happened to the Spanish golfer Ivan Cantero, and this incident had a significant impact on his result at the Volvo China Open won by Adrian Otaegui.

by Andrea Gussoni
An almost unknown rule for arbitration error
© Getty Images Sport - Naomi Baker / Staff

The rules of golf often change, and it must be acknowledged that this one (a bit specific) had completely escaped our attention... It concerns a decision applied last week on the DP World Tour that may interest golfers worldwide because it offers the opportunity to rectify a mistake and "recover" a shot.

Did you know that an official's decision on the course can be retroactively changed by another official if it's incorrect? This is what happened to the Spanish golfer Ivan Cantero, and this incident had a significant impact on his result at the Volvo China Open won by Adrian Otaegui.

Golf, rules

Extremely Rare In general, on the professional circuit, when you are summoned by officials after your round, it's not a good sign... A misapplied rule, a poorly executed drop, a forgotten penalty, and you're in trouble...

For Spanish golfer Ivan Cantero, the opposite happened. After the first round of the Volvo China Open, Cantero was informed after his round that he was not going to receive a penalty, but instead, he would "recover" a shot on his scorecard.

The next day, the future 27th-place finisher in the Volvo China Open barely made the cut by one shot. This modification to his first scorecard (his 71 turned into a 70) changed everything. Let's explain why and how. What Happened? Follow closely.

On Thursday at the 13th hole of the Hidden Grace Golf Club in Shenzhen, a par 5, Ivan Cantero hit his tee shot way right into tall grass. He wasn't sure if it was a penalty area or not. So, he played a provisional ball, which is allowed in such uncertain situations (a provisional ball cannot be used if it's certain that the original ball landed in a penalty area, which wasn't the case here).

Rule of "Evidence" Cantero played a provisional ball right down the fairway. But while walking toward his first ball, both Cantero and the players accompanying him noticed that the initial ball, quickly found, was lying in a penalty area.

Cantero then called over an official who informed him that he couldn't play that first ball (either by dropping it or playing it from where it was) since he had played a provisional ball. The player (who seemingly knew the rule better than the official, ironically) pleaded his case, explaining that if he had played a provisional ball, it ceased to exist from a rules perspective once the original ball was found.

So, he requested the opinion of a second official, which he is allowed to do, but this official upheld the decision of his colleague... Irrational And here's where the story gets a bit crazy. The 28-year-old player then abided by the officials' decision and played his provisional ball (now "final") from the fairway.

He then made a superb par (scoring an eagle with this second ball, if you will). So, he scored a 5 on the 13th hole. But... A Par Becomes a Birdie But at the end of his round, tournament officials approached Cantero to explain that the ruling imposed by the two officials was incorrect.

Therefore, a stroke would be deducted from his score. Cantero ended up making a birdie (4) on the 13th hole, without actually making it. Irrational, isn't it? It seems unprecedented in the history of golf rules: a total of strokes reduced due to an officiating error in a professional tournament.

What Does the Rule Say? Rule 20.2a was applied here. It states several things. First, that "an official’s decision about the facts or the application of the Rules must be followed by the player." Then, "a player is not allowed to appeal an official’s decision to the Committee, but after a decision has been made, an official may report a decision to the Committee for confirmation." An officiating error turning in favor of the victim...

The tournament committee thus realized the blunder made by the two officials. This Committee then made a decision according to rule 20.2d. "An incorrect decision occurs when an official or the Committee tries to apply the Rules but does so incorrectly." "If an official’s or the Committee’s decision is subsequently found to be incorrect, the decision will be corrected if possible under the Rules." This decision was made in time, before the player signed his scorecard.

Of course, the Committee's decision to give Cantero a stroke back sparked controversy, according to the journalist from Monday Q who was the first to report this "incident." Some other players were both unhappy about the double officiating error and the "leniency" granted to the Spanish player.

Because ultimately, the officials' blunder turned in favor of the victim. In any case, this is information that will interest all competitive players supervised by officials. If you feel you are a victim of an error, all may not be lost. But note well: the tournament committee's opinion cannot be sought by the player. But by the officials themselves...

China Open