R&A and USGA to clarify new ruling on caddies aligning players
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 03/02/19 8:11pm
The R&A and USGA have announced they will provide "necessary clarifications" to the new rule which prevents caddies from helping players with alignment.
The controversial two-shot penalties handed out to Li Haotong in Dubai and Denny McCarthy in Phoenix were greeted with widespread dismay by a number of leading professionals, with many calling for clarity on how the new rule should be interpreted.
When the Rules of Golf were updated on January 1, one of the most significant new regulations related to the position of the caddie as their player prepared to take a shot or putt.
The new ruling states that caddies cannot stand directly behind their players "when a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made". Rule 10.2b(4) adds that players cannot avoid a penalty by backing away and starting their shot process again, unless they are on the green.
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Li was deemed to be in breach of the rule on the final green in Dubai last week when he began to take his stance over a short birdie putt just before his caddie moved to one side, and his subsequent two-stroke penalty was upheld by the R&A.
However, McCarthy was also hit with a two-shot deduction after his caddie was seen standing behind him as he went through his practice swings during day two of the Phoenix Open, but the punishment was rescinded a day later after consultations with the games governing bodies.
The PGA Tour announced the decision had been reversed after they discovered similar incidents involving Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, and it was decided that McCarthy had taken a stance only for his practice routine rather than the actual shot.
Veteran rules official Slugger Whte paid a visit to the Sky Cart to explain the situation with McCarthy, and he admitted that the wording of the new rule had made it difficult to interpret when deliberating over a possible infringement.
WATCH: Li's Dubai penalty
Li Haotong was penalised two shots for being in breach of the new rule preventing caddies from helping with alignment
And in a joint-statement released by the R&A and USGA, it was revealed that the description of the rule will be altered and made clearer for officials to decide when to impose shot penalties.
The statement read: "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 Phoenix Open.
"After an additional review of available video, 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."