One Rule in particular has caused plenty of controversy on Tour already in 2019, prompting golf's governing bodies to react


R&A Releases Statement On Caddie Alignment Issue

The new Rules of Golf for 2019 have had a controversial start to life, most notably with the new prohibition of caddies lining up players out on Tour.

The new Rule, in the view of most, was brought in to police the issue on the LPGA Tour, although, ironically, it has been heavily involved on both the men’s European and PGA Tours.


At the Dubai Desert Classic, China’s Haotong Li was penalised two strokes after his caddie stood behind him whilst he was setting up for a short putt on the 72nd hole.

It was Rule 10.2.b4 that Li and his caddie fell foul of:

When a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made:

  • The player’s caddie must not deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason.
  • If the player takes a stance in breach of this Rule, he or she cannot avoid penalty by backing away.

His caddie got out of the way before he had officially make the stroke, and he was only reading the putt anyway, but both R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers and European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley admitted that it was a correct decision when applying the letter of the (new) law.

Pelley called on the R&A, and USGA, to allow discression to be used when applying the rules in this instance. He also called the penalty “grossly unfair.”

Slumbers replied the following day, reaffirming the fact that there is no discretionary element to the rule to make it easier to understand. He did also say that the R&A will be monitoring the impact of all of the new Rules

Would the issue blow over? Absolutely not.

The following week, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour, Denny McCarthy was then penalised two strokes himself after his caddie stood behind him during practice swings for a pitch shot.

This seemed very harsh and, just like the Li situation a week prior, Tour Pros were angry about the decision.

Justin Thomas tweeted, “This is ridiculous… the fact this is a penalty is mind blowing. @USGA this NEEDS to be changed ASAP… there is nothing about this rule that makes the game better.”

Incredibly, the R&A and USGA then released a statement explaining that McCarthy’s two stroke penalty had been rescinded.

The statement also says that they will be providing “necessary clarifications” in the coming days.

Read the statement below –

Following an ongoing dialogue with players and in co-operation with the PGA TOUR rules team, The R&A and the USGA revisited the penalty assessed to Denny McCarthy during round two of the Waste Management Open.

After an additional review of available video this morning, it was determined that the penalty would not apply in this instance nor in a similar instance involving Justin Thomas.

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 same would be true for any similar situation that might occur.

The R&A and the USGA recognise that clarity on how to appropriately apply this Rule is needed. We are committed to assessing its impact and will provide the necessary clarifications in the coming days.

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