Amy Olson and Ariya Jutanugarn fist-bumped after Olson hit Jutanugarn's ball on the green, prompting another backstopping controversy


LPGA Tour Backstopping: Should This Have Been A Penalty?

Golf is having a hard time in 2019, with new Rules perhaps not quite going the way they planned, slow play controversies and backstopping.

This article relates to the latter, with backstopping once again appearing on Tour this week.

We have seen a couple of high-profile cases of backstopping on the PGA Tour over the past year, where players don’t mark their golf balls when near the hole leaving competitors the opportunity to use their playing partner’s ball as a backstop.

Now, the backstopping issue has hit the LPGA Tour…

WATCH: LPGA Tour Backstopping controversy – Should this have been a penalty?

The latest backstopping controversy happened on the LPGA Tour at the Thailand LPGA, where Amy Olsen hit Ariya Jutanugarn’s ball with a chip shot, seen in the video above from @Teamfrench23 on Twitter.

Jutanugarn chipped it close

Jutanugarn hit a lovely chip shot to a few feet and asked Olsen if she’d like it marked…Olsen said no.

She then asked Olson if she’d like it marked, Olson said no

The American then hit a similarly nice chip that was on its way to around six-eight feet past the hole, although luckily for her it hit Jutanugarn’s ball and stopped right by the hole.

Olson’s ball hit Jutanugarn’s which slowed it down, eventually stopping a few feet away

The pair then fist-bumped, giving the impression that the entire thing was planned.

This would have been blatant cheating, but we’ll give Olson the benefit of the doubt and say that she didn’t get Jutanugarn to mark the ball to keep the pace of play up.

Golfweek writer Geoff Shackleford wrote on Twitter: “We’ve got collusion, laughing after the balls collide and fist bumping! Yay cheating! Should be an easy DQ call for @AmyOlsonGolf @jutanugarn #backstopping”

So…what do the Rules say about backstopping? They say that Olson and Jutanugarn could potentially get in trouble.

15.3a/1 – Breach of Rule for Leaving Helping Ball in Place Does Not Require Knowledge

In stroke play, under Rule 15.3a, if two or more players agree to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help any player, and the stroke is made with  the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets two penalty strokes. A breach of Rule 15.3a does not depend on whether the players know that such an agreement is not allowed.

For example, in stroke play, before playing from just off the putting green, a player asks another player to leave his or her ball that is near the hole, in order to use it as a backstop. Without knowing this is not allowed, the other player agrees to leave his or her ball by the hole to help the other player. Once the stroke is made with the ball in place, both players get the penalty under Rule 15.3a.

The same outcome would apply if the player whose ball was near the hole offered to leave the ball in play to help the other player, and the other player accepted the offer and then played.

If the players know that they are not allowed to make such an agreement, but still do it, they are both disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1) for deliberately ignoring Rule 15.3a.

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