Li Haotong handed penalty for breach of new alignment rules in Dubai
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 28/01/19 7:22am
Li Haotong was hit with a two-shot penalty at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic after falling victim to one of the new rules introduced at the turn of the year.
Li, playing in the final group alongside runaway winner Bryson DeChambeau, was lining up a short putt for birdie on the 72nd green with his caddie standing behind him.
The defending champion's caddie, Mike Burrow, moved away just as Li began to take his stance, and he rolled in the putt for what he thought was his 71st and final shot of the day, earning him a share of third place on 16-under par.
But European Tour officials found Li in breach of the new ruling that prevents caddies from helping their players with alignment, and the birdie-four was changed to a bogey-six shortly after the close of play, dropping him outside the top 10 and costing him over 80,000 euros in prize money.
A Tour statement read: "Li Haotong's caddie was on a direct line behind the ball when he began to take his stance on the 18th green. The player's caddie must not stand behind the player for any reason when a player begins taking a stance.
"Haotong could have avoided the penalty if he had backed off the stroke and retaken his stance. He did not, hence a two-stroke penalty applied to his score on 18."
However, the ruling did not sit well with many observers, including Lee Westwood and Matt Wallace, while Justin Rose's regular caddie, Mark Fulcher, described the penalty as "a farce".
Fulcher, currently recovering from minor heart surgery having handed over his bag to Gareth Lord for the time being, tweeted: "Just watched Haotong Li and the 2 shot penalty ... total farce ... has made the game look stupid."
Westwood admitted the ruling was "a bit harsh", while Wallace added: "Ridiculous to say that's alignment. Sorry."
Ryder Cup legend and Sky Sports commentator Paul McGinley also felt the ruling was "marginal" and suggested Li was hard done by.
McGinley tweeted: "This is so ridiculously marginal. The player should be given the benefit of the doubt. The rule changes are largely about the spirit of the game & player integrity not this pedanticness...."