Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ask Linda #135-Breaking ties

Dear Linda,

I would like your opinion on how to break ties in tournaments. My partner and I recently finished in a five-way tie for third place. The Committee broke all ties by a match of cards, and we ended up in seventh place. Needless to say, we were not very happy about this. To add insult to injury, we received $40 less than the team that officially finished in third place, even though we had the same score. Do you think I’m whining without justification, or do I have a legitimate beef?

Lou Lou

Dear Lou Lou,

The USGA recommends a playoff to decide the winner of a tournament. When that is not feasible, they recommend a match of cards. (Their suggestion for matching cards is to compare the scores for the last nine holes. If there is still a tie, then look at the last six holes, then the last three holes, and finally the last hole. Committees need to decide in advance and announce how ties will be broken if this match of cards procedure still ends in a tie.)

Whether you have a playoff or use a match of cards, the purpose of these tie-breaking procedures is to establish a winner. If you look at the tournament results for both USGA and PGA tournaments, you will notice that ties for first place are always broken (usually by a playoff), and that all players tied for any position below first place remain in a tie. This is especially important in a tournament where cash prizes are awarded, since it seems to me that it would be inherently unfair to award different cash prizes to players or teams that shoot the same score. I personally feel it is equally unfair to break ties below first place even in tournaments where no prize money is at stake. What competitive golfer would want to be listed in seventh place when he actually finished in a tie for third?

I think you have a legitimate beef, Lou, and that you should make your feelings known to the members of the Committee. Actually, I can’t recall ever seeing results of amateur tournaments posted in local golf periodicals where ties are broken below first place. You should be able to convince any fair-minded individuals that it is an unnecessary and counter-productive injustice to the competitors to break ties below first place. If competitors feel cheated or slighted by the Committee, they will not have good memories of their experience and might be reluctant to compete in future tournaments. I doubt there are any Tournament Committees out there in the golf world that are looking to discourage participation.

Good luck, Lou!


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