This past weekend, Hatong Li was penalized two strokes under Rule 10.2b(4) on the 18th green at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic:
@EuropeanTour this is a marginal interpretation of the new Rule 10.2b @haotong_li good playing. pic.twitter.com/jNxT0aokxj
— Brian McKinley (@brijon5555) January 27, 2019
The penalty dropped Li from a T-3 to a T-12 finish, costing him about €100,000.
Rule 10.2b(4) reads:
(4) Restriction on Caddie Standing Behind Player. 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.
Exception – Ball on Putting Green: When the player’s ball is on the putting green, there is no penalty under this Rule if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take the stance again until after the caddie has moved out of that location.
Li did not back away, so he didn’t “reset” the condition whereby the caddie was on or near the extension of the Line of Play at the time the player began taking his stance.
Though the outrage on the Internet is rampant, the Ruling was correct, and Li was in breach of Rule 10.2b(4).
1/3 To clarify any misunderstanding of the Li Haotong ruling, Rule 10.2b(4) restricts a caddie standing behind the player. It applies as the player begins taking a stance which includes when the first foot moves into position. pic.twitter.com/jpkYWMc943
— The R&A (@RandA) January 28, 2019
In the tweet above, the image (from the Rules) looks almost exactly like the situation seen in the video at the top of this post.
Statements from the European Tour and the R&A on the Haotong Li Penalty
EUROPEAN TOUR CEO KEITH PELLEY
‘There has been much discussion and comment over the past 24 hours on the two-shot penalty given to Li Haotong for his breach of Rule 10.2b (4) on the 18th green of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
‘Let me state initially that, under the new Rules of Golf issued on January 1, 2019, the decision made by our referees was correct, under the strict wording of the rules. It is my strong belief, however, that the fact there is no discretion available to our referees when implementing rulings such as this is wrong and should be addressed immediately.
‘Everyone I have spoken to about this believes, as I do, that there was no malice or intent from Li Haotong, nor did he gain any advantage from his, or his caddie’s split-second actions. Therefore the subsequent two shot penalty, which moved him from T3 in the tournament to T12, was grossly unfair in my opinion.
‘In an era where we are striving to improve all aspects of golf, we need to be careful and find the proper balance between maintaining the integrity of the game and promoting its global appeal.
‘I have spoken personally to R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers to voice my opposition to the fact there is no discretion available to our referees in relation to this ruling, and I will be making additional representation to the R&A in the near future to discuss the matter further.’
R&A CHIEF EXECUTIVE MARTIN SLUMBERS
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have reviewed the Li Haotong ruling made by the European Tour referees and agree that it was correct. There has been some misunderstanding of the new Rule and I would point out that it is designed to prevent any opportunity for the caddie to stand behind the player as he begins to take his stance. Whether the player intends to be lined up is not the issue. We appreciate that it was a very unfortunate situation yesterday and I completely understand Keith Pelley’s concerns when a Rules incident occurs at such a key stage of a European Tour event but there is no discretionary element to the Rule precisely so that it is easier to understand and can be applied consistently.
“We are continuing to monitor the impact of the new Rules but I made it clear to Keith that our focus is very much on maintaining the integrity of the Rules for all golfers worldwide.”
There have been questions about the word ‘deliberate’ in this case.
It doesn’t mean that the caddie deliberately stayed in position but that he deliberately stood there in the first place.
The caddie did not move away quickly enough or the player didn’t stand back. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Right, and good clarification. The use of the word “deliberate” refers to standing there, not “helping the player line up” or anything like that.
If the caddie is off the green getting a drink out of the bag and just so happens to be standing on an extension of the line of play, that’s the kind of action the word “protects.”
Geoff Shackelford weighs in and points out that the players and caddies, at least on the PGA Tour, are being reminded constantly about not standing there: http://www.golfchannel.com/video?guid=Sz_akZhom1QnLnU4LpAfkT0_T_VaqgGX
It is interesting to see the earlier part of the video as opposed to the edited version originally shown. The caddie even had another look when the player was moving to take his stance.
Do you have that video somewhere, Doug?
In addition, the chief referee of the European Tour, John Paramor, gave the players a leaflet and reminded them of the rule before they went out to play.
For Immediate Publication
2 February 2019, St Andrews, Scotland and Liberty Corner, N.J., USA:
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.