AUSTIN, Texas – Conceding a putt in match play can be delicate and on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that line was crossed by Dustin Johnson.
Johnson’s birdie putt from 8 feet lipped out to about a foot and instead of waiting for his opponent, Kevin Na, to concede him the par putt, which he would have, the world No. 1 tapped back his ball.
“His [putt] lipped out and he had 6 inches and obviously it's good, but I hadn't said anything and he whacked it,” Na said following the match. “I froze there and looked at [caddie Kenny Harms] and I wasn't going to say that's a penalty, you're going to lose the hole. I was going to say, you know what, that was good anyway.”
Na approached Johnson immediately and was overheard telling him, “I know it’s this [holding his hand about a foot apart], but you still have to wait until I say something.”
No penalty was called on Johnson and the two players halved the hole with pars, but the incident might have shaken Johnson. He lost the next hole after hitting his second shot in the water and Na won the match with a 4-footer for birdie at No. 18.
In 2019 a similar scenario occurred when Sergio Garcia backhanded a putt during his quarterfinal match with Matt Kuchar. The Spaniard missed the putt and lost the hole when Kuchar informed him he hadn’t conceded it.
“I apologized. I said, ‘I don't like the way this was played out.’ He said, ‘You can concede a hole.’ I thought about it and said I don't like that idea, either,” Kuchar said at the time.
Johnson, who has now failed to advance out of pool play for the third consecutive time in this event, declined to comment.