Jon Rahm torched the field at European Tour’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open winning by six shots on Sunday, but it didn’t come without some controversy.
On the sixth green, Rahm marked his ball to the side and then moved it so as not to interfere with his playing competitor Daniel Im’s line. After moving his mark back to the original position, Rahm then placed the ball in front of his mark instead of the side as he did originally. He went on to convert the putt, then was informed of the potential penalty.
After a brief discussion with Andy McFee, Chief Referee of the European Tour, it was determined Rahm exercised “reasonable judgment” in replacing his ball and therefore gave him no penalty. Speaking to Golf Channel after the round, McFee explained that there was only a “millimeters” difference between the two spots and that there was no intent to break a rule:
“When he put the ball back down, he said, ‘I think I made an effort to put it back to the side,’ which tallies with what I see on the pictures,” McFee said. “Because if he didn’t, he’d be putting it back immediately in front of the marker, and he didn’t. He moved it slightly to the side.
“So do I think he’s got the ball in exactly the right place? No, I don’t. I think the ball is slightly in the wrong place, but we’re talking about maybe a couple millimeters here or there. So then that falls within the limitation of video evidence, and it comes down to has the player made a reasonable judgment? And I believe he has.”
Following the conclusion of the event on Golf Central, Brandel Chamblee and Billy Kratzert both disagreed with the ruling, arguing that Rahm should have been penalized.
“The integrity of the competition was certainly at risk, and the dynamic of the competition completely changed from what it should have been to one person’s interpretation, and in my opinion, a wrong interpretation of it,” Chamblee said. “Andy McFee certainly has a great reputation administering the rules in a fair manner, but I believe he got this one wrong. It wasn’t millimeters. It was inches, probably 2-3 inches this ball was misplaced.
“So, [Rahm] broke the rule. He should have been penalized, which means he wouldn’t have been playing with a five-shot lead. He would have been playing with a three-shot lead. … And all of a sudden, what looks to be something easy and a walk in the park becomes very stressful. The dynamic certainly changed there and I don’t believe it changed for the right reason.”
“Well, I certainly agree,” Kratzert followed. “When you really look at what happened, I think you have to look at the rule, ‘Ball Played from the Wrong [Place] (20-7C),’ and that would incur a two-shot penalty.
“When are we going to understand that intent and vague don’t mean the same thing? There’s too many vagaries with that word intent in the Rules of Golf…”
This is the 22-year-old Spaniard’s second career professional win and his first on the European Tour. The win propels the rookie to number eight in the Official World Golf Ranking after starting the year at No.137.
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