Bad Golf Rule: Signing for an Incorrect Scorecard

Scorecard from the RSM Classic / Photo illustration by Gutsy Golf

After the second round of the 2024 Genesis Invitational at Riviera in Los Angeles, Jordan Spieth was informed that he signed for an incorrect scorecard. Instead of marking a bogey on hole 4, he wrote down a 3.

Here’s Spieth’s take on the situation, owning up to the mishap:

Players love Riviera and the “LA Open”. So, it especially hurts to miss out on playing the weekend.

Signing for an incorrect scorecard is nothing new on the PGA Tour. It’s one of the most talked-about “bad rules” in golf. Especially when it concerns higher level tournament play. And, there’s really no reason for it to happen in the first place.

Consider how a player is scored on the pro tour: When a pro gets to the first tee, he is given a playing partner’s scorecard. On that scorecard, is a tear-off that contains a line for the player to keep his individual score as he scores his playing partners “official” scorecard below (or above). After the round, the player tears off his score from the scorecard, signs his playing partners scorecard and hands it to him. He then takes that tear-off of his score, and matches it with the one given to him by his playing companion (who kept his score). If the numbers do not match, he / she can immediately notice a discrepancy.

Scorecard from the PGA Tour RSM / From GNN

Not to mention, there are scoring markers with each group to keep television and the PGA Tour notified of the scores after each hole. So, there are no excuses for signing incorrectly.

To be fair, a player may be in a hurry or not checking their scores accurately. OR (as I’ve pondered), in the case of Spieth, both he and his playing partner both may have written down the incorrect score on the hole.

All this to say, it just should not happen in the pro (or high level amateur) ranks. There are so many safeguards in place. In the case of Spieth, this leaves a high-level tournament (or “Signature Event”) without one of its marque draws for the weekend (Woods had already withdrawn from the event due to an illness). So, everyone suffers from this avoidable mistake.

Signing for an incorrect scorecard: a rule that should change

At the 1968 Masters tournament, Roberto De Vincenzo signed for a 4 instead of the 3 that he made on the par 4, 17th. Had he not signed an incorrect scorecard, he would have tied with eventual winner, Bob Goalby (which, in turn, would have led to a playoff).

De Vincenzo’s mistake is one of the first examples cited when discussing signing an incorrect scorecard. Typically, when a player signs for a score higher than what was shot, the higher score becomes the new official score. Sign for a score lower than was shot, the golfer is disqualified.

This error happens infrequently on the pro tour. But when it does, the penalty is often steep and not equal with the discretion.

I believe the rule should be a standard two-stroke penalty. As mentioned, if a player writes down a 4 when they really had a 3, that player is given the 4 on an incorrect scorecard. If they write down a 3 when they really had a 4, that player is disqualified. It really makes no sense. The rule is — in a sense — penalizing the player for their “dishonesty”. However, in the case of Spieth (who has never been disqualified from a PGA Tour event for this breach), honesty is not in question here.

Give Spieth a two-stroke penalty and move along. Case closed.

What are your thoughts on this rule of golf?


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