Andrew Both of Reuters talks to the USGA’s Thomas Pagel gives us an update on the broken club rule that inspired Justin Thomas’s Honda Classic outrage at 2019’s new rules. The spat spilled onto Twitter.
The new rule allows players to continue using a damaged club, even bending it back into shape if possible, but not to replace it during a round.
"You can just add that one to the list of rules that don't make any sense," Thomas told reporters.
"If you break or bend the club in play, I don't see where the harm is in replacing it."
Pagel disputes the new rule does not make sense.
"That rule used to be so complicated (determining) when a club was damaged, unfit," Pagel told Reuters in an interview.
"We said let's simplify it. You can start with up to 14 (clubs) and if one becomes damaged you’re not able to replace it.
"Justin and I have connected. I thought it was very positive conversation. I want to keep the nature of it private."
Michael Bamberger was also afforded phone time with Pagel for a Golf.com item on the new rules and notes this following Webb Simpson’s unfortunate freak Players penalty, prompting Pagel to remind why intent cannot drive the rules.
Pagel expressed sympathy for Simpson’s bad luck and then dutifully explained why the rulebook gives a player a one-shot penalty if you’re off the green and no penalty if you’re on it. The latter, the so-called Dustin Johnson Rule of 2016, allows for that fact that you might have already had your hand on a ball on the green, that greens are more closely mown, and that a random outside agency – most notably wind – can move a ball on a green more readily.
“As much as possible, the rulebook tries to keep the question of ‘intent’ out of the discussion, because intention is hard to define,” Pagel said.
One person, for instance, could claim an exemption from a penalty because of intention while another, in those same circumstances, might not. That’s not a level playing field.