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PGA Tour Rescinds Pro’s 2-Stroke Penalty

One of the more confusing modernized Rules of Golf may be getting a facelift sooner rather than later after PGA Tour pro Denny McCarthy’s two-stroke penalty for having his caddie line him up before he took a stroke in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open was rescinded 24 hours later in an unprecedented move.

McCarthy and his caddie, Derek Smith, were preparing to play a 65-yard approach into the par-5 15th hole at TPC Scottsdale when cameras caught Smith behind McCarthy.

Although Smith removed himself from the extended line of play, and McCarthy took other practice swings, including stepping away from the ball completely, he found out in the scoring trailer after the round that he would be assessed a two-stroke penalty under Rule 10.2b(4), which prohibits a player from having his or her caddie deliberately stand behind him or her when the player begins taking a stance.

McCarthy’s 36-hole total fell from 8-under par to 6-under par as a result. However, the backlash the Tour received from both inside and outside its ranks resulted in the Tour announcing that they would be rescinding the penalty. 

“We saw the video many, many times and we just felt like we need to look at the interpretation a little more,” PGA Tour rules official Slugger White said during the Golf Channel broadcast. “It’s a new rule. We agree with the rule. Just the interpretation is a little difficult right now.”

Pros Go Nuts Over Alignment Penalty

The PGA Tour released a statement on the incident as well. 

“It is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among players and caddies on the practice application of the new rule during competition, as well as questions surrounding the language of the rule itself and how it should be interpreted,” the statement read. “As a result, with the full support of the USGA and R&A, the rule will be interpreted whereby the two aforementioned situations as well as future similar situations will not result in a penalty. McCarthy’s score has been updated accordingly.

“We will be working vigorously with the USGA and The R&A over the coming days to further analyze and improve the situation with this rule.”

“I tried to put it past me, but a bunch of people were texting me and sending me pictures of other players yesterday,” McCarthy said on Saturday, via GolfChannel.com. “And I called a rules official over this morning and showed them a couple videos of pictures that people sent me of other players doing exactly the same thing and I was trying to find out what the difference was, basically. And he said there was no difference and that they just, they missed it.

“So, yeah, obviously it’s a great feeling to get those two shots back.”

The USGA released a statement following the penalty pull back that specifically addressed McCarthy’s penalty as well as an instance in which Justin Thomas believed he may have run afoul of the rule as well.

“In each of these cases, when the caddie was standing behind the player, the player had not yet begun taking the stance for the stroke, nor could useful guidance on aiming be given because the player was still in the process of determining how to play the stroke,” the USGA statement said. “The same would be true for any similar situation that might occur.” 

The backlash was quick and pointed with Rickie Fowler, the tournament leader calling it one of the “stupidest rules” he’s ever come across.

“Might be one of the stupidest rules I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I get the whole lining up part and taking that out. And it’s just kind of stupid. We’ll see where it goes.

“I mean, you’re talking about growing the game and making things play faster and whatnot, but that’s not growing the game, I mean you’re giving someone a two-shot penalty for doing nothing and not getting any sort of advantage. That’s not what we are here to do.”

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