Why was this American player forced to strike *before* the opponent approached

Sam Burns, left, and Scotty Scheffler in the Presidents Cup Thursday.

Getty Images

You don’t need to be a grammar expert to know this basic principle of the game: The golfer who is furthest from the hole plays first.

So, when Si Woo Kim found himself blocking a shot from 87 yards in his opening four-way game in the Presidents Cup Thursday, all his opponent, Scotty Scheffler, had left 74 feet for the eagle, excused for thinking Kim was far away.

Sorry, but still wrong, and here’s why.

Kim, who was playing alongside Cam Davis for the international tournament, hit the team’s shot in the fifth inning. He found the fairway, leaving Davis about 190 yards to the hole above the water hazard facing the green. Davis endured the snag, but not nearly enough. His ball jumped to the drink. Meanwhile, Scheffler’s partner Sam Burns had safely left Scheffler aboard with long strokes of an eagle.

With no space to drop from the green without getting close to the hole, Kim was forced to fall on the other side of the danger, about 90 yards from his target.

Se Woo Kim hit his team’s fourth shot on the seventh of the green Thursday.

NBC / Golf

The order of play is especially meaningful in a match game because the outcome of your opponent’s shots can affect how you play in your own way. Therefore, it was surprising to see Schaeffler, who was much closer to the pit, play first.

What gives?

Enter the official PGA Tour rules Mark Dusabek, who joined the broadcast to enlighten the golf-watching fans. Because the international’s ball had crossed over on the far side of the hazard – and closer to the hole where the Americans’ approach shot had landed – the international’s ball was still considered closer to the hole, although it had disappeared, Dusabec said.

“His ball is actually closer to the hole than where his ball went into the water, where he put his ball into the water, opposite a place [U.S. team’s] Dusabek said.

Team USA jumped to a big lead Thursday in the Presidents Cup.

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Dan Hicks, who was inviting the event for NBC/Golf, told his perplexed partner Paul Azinger, “I just heard a lot of people say, Zing:”oh…”

That makes sense now, Azinger said.

Kim hit a superb 5-foot shot in terms of keeping Davis on a par, but it wasn’t enough to match Scheffler and Burns, who snatched a 3-up lead and looked like he would put another point on the board for the Americans.

Davis later said, “I think I was playing a little nervous – not too scared, just a little nervous.” “And when I hit the ball in the water at 7, I was like, ‘This is the last time I’m trying a smooth shot when I’m nervous. It’s nervous inflated so everything just goes a little further. It’s hard sometimes to hit a ball over water with a club that doesn’t usually make it over the water. So I guess that finally clicked in my head. Well we just have to play aggressively. We have to hit it hard. If you’re stuck between clubs, go short.”

The change in strategy worked. Kim and Davis returned to the match through 16 holes, before winning 17th and 18th for a solid 2-up win and the much-needed point for the outsiders.

“We feed on each other really well,” Davis added. “I think we have almost the same approach to the game, in terms of asking him what he thinks, it pretty much matches what I’m thinking, and it’s a very easy way of thinking about our way around the golf course. It obviously worked great today.”

Alain Bastable

Alain Bastable

Golf.com Editor
As the Executive Editor of GOLF.com, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and popular news and service sites. He wears many hats—editing, writing, thinking, developing, daydreaming for a day breaking 80’s—and feels privileged to work with an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors, and producers. Before taking over at GOLF.com, he was Feature Editor at GOLF Magazine. He graduated from the University of Richmond and Columbia College of Journalism, and lives in New Jersey with his wife and four children.

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