The United States Golf Association, along with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of Scotland, announced a rule clarification Wednesday, less than a week after the regulation caused a penalty, then a retraction, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Denny McCarthy was given a two-stroke penalty after his caddie stood behind the ball as McCarthy lined up for his shot. But McCarthy backed away from the ball before striking it. He was given the penalty during Friday’s second round anyway, according to a new rule introduced for the 2019 season.
A day later, though, the penalty was lifted and McCarthy’s score was reduced by two strokes. A similar penalty was being considered for Justin Thomas but was never applied.
The new rule, meant to address the help given by caddies regarding alignment to the hole, was handed out to China’s Haotong Li on Jan. 27 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, costing him an estimated $100,000 in prize money.
Wednesday’s announcement regarding rule 10.2b(4) stated, in part: “If a player backs away from a stance, the player is not considered to have begun a ‘stance for the stroke.’ Therefore, a player can now back away from his or her stance anywhere on the course and avoid a breach of Rule 10.2b(4) if the caddie had been standing in a location behind the ball.”
–Field Level Media