Lots to chew on in the latest dust-up under the new rules and while Haotong Li’s was debatable because of the split second nature, it was a violation.
Denny McCarthy’s infraction in the Waste Management Phoenix Open may be debatable enough from all points of view that a rules re-write is already necessary, as Ryan Lavner writes for GolfChannel.com. Because while there is little question his caddie was directly behind him and where no caddy should be these days under the new rules, McCarthy had technically not taken a stance and was a bit too far from the ball to reasonably hit a shot. He also then backs off and goes through his routine, something that would absolve his caddie on the greens, but not in a fairway. Oy.
He was immediately deemed to have been in a “golf posture” and therefore guilty of a violation under 10.2b (4).
The rule is destined to fail because of the difference between green and tee/fairway situations. Lavner offers a solution that I know the folks in Far Hills and St. Andrews will be grateful for.
So here’s what the governing bodies should do, as soon as possible:
1. Allow players to back away and reset anywhere on the course, not just the greens;
2. Remove the phrase “begins taking a stance” – because even they admit that there is “no set procedure” for determining when that begins – and replace it with “takes a final stance”;
3. Reinforce that only “deliberate” intent to align should be subject to a two-shot penalty.
I do hate to take this opportunity to point out that the issues with this rule are only partially a product of wording. The lack of serious beta testing, particularly on a stage as large and bizarre as professional golf, is really doing a disservice to what are mostly simplified and improved rules.
The other danger for the governing bodies if they don’t act fast: pro tours adopting a local rule workaround that damages their credibility.