Exactly how bad could you lose a match in match play? Really bad!

Phil Mickelson
USA Today Sports Images
Phil Mickelson's "hole adjustment" at the Presidents Cup prompted a question: What would be the worst score a player could lose a match by?
By
Doug Ferguson
The Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 | 5:54 p.m.
 
The biggest blowout in the Match Play Championship was Tiger Woods winning every hole on the front nine and closing out Stephen Ames, 9 and 8, at La Costa in 2006. This was two days after Ames, the No. 64 seed, jokingly said anything can happen in match play, "especially where he's hitting the ball."
 
Mathematically, it could have been worse.
 
Much worse.
 
Consider what happened to Phil Mickelson in the Presidents Cup this year. He did not know about the one-ball condition and used a different model on the par-5 seventh hole in a fourballs match. The penalty is a one-hole adjustment, and because Jason Day won the hole (Mickelson mistakenly was not allowed to finish the hole), the International team went from all square to 2 up.
 
That led to two questions: What other rules and conditions allow for a "hole adjustment?" And what would be the earliest an 18-hole match could end?
 
Kathryn Belanger, the assistant manager of rules communications for the USGA, provided the answer. It's a long shot. Odds are it will never happen.
 
But follow along, because it is possible.
 
A player carries a non-conforming club (Rule 4-1). He changes the weight of his driver after teeing off, but he does not make a stroke with the club after the adjustment (Rule 4-2). He starts his round with 15 clubs (Rule 4-4a). He has two caddies (Rule 6-4). He violates the one-ball condition on the opening two holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 1c). He has a parent as a caddie when they are not allowed (Appendix I, Part C, Item 2). He takes an unauthorized ride in a cart on both holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 8).
 
If all of these violations are discovered on the second hole, each would carry a two-hole adjustment to the state of the match. That's 14 holes. Assuming the player also loses the first two holes, he now is 16 down with 16 to play.
 
His opponent could win the 18-hole match on the third hole by a score of 17 and 15.
 
Maybe Ames got off easy.
 
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