LPGA Tour Backstopping: Should This Have Been A Penalty?

Amy Olson and Ariya Jutanugarn were involved in a backstopping issue on the LPGA Tour

lpga tour backstopping
Screenshots: @Teamfrench23 on Twitter

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?

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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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Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x