ESC (equitable stroke control) is implemented to avoid your handicap having the peaks and valleys. It is totally separate from scoring a “14” on a hole. In competition, if you’re a 12hcp and you shoot 95 with 3 holes being a “10”, then you shot “95”. But when you enter your score for your hcp keeping, you would enter 86.. ESC says that if your home course hcp is between 10-19, your allowable max when REPORTING is 7.
I have played with guys who pick up after 7 and say “that’s the max I can take”. Well yes, but you should always hole out in competition. If you’re playing for shits and giggles, then do you what you want, you’re only fooling yourself.
So back to the John’s point here, the leader shouldn’t have had the luxury of picking up for 9. This allowed him to avoid potentially a BIG MESS. The staff did it for good reasons but this is the rare occurrence where it’s not fair.