‘Clarification’ issued over rule on caddies aligning players

Haotong Li of China was hit with a two-shot penalty at the Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Haotong Li of China was hit with a two-shot penalty at the Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
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Concern within golf over a new rule regarding caddies aligning players has led the game’s two ruling bodies, the R&A and USGA, to issue “clarifications” in a bid to clear up any grey areas.

Rule 10.2b(4), one of the changes introduced at the start of the year, has been in the spotlight since China’a Haotong Li lost around £80,000 after slipping from third to 12th in the recent Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

That followed the 23-year-old being hit with a two-shot penalty because his caddie was on a direct line behind the ball when he began to take his stance on the green at the 72nd hole in the event at Emirates Golf Club.

American Denny McCarthy was then punished under the same rule in the second round of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open last week only for that penalty to be rescinded just over 24 hours later.

Following the Li incident, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley expressed his concern at what he described as a “grossly unfair” penalty and now new advice has been issued regarding restrictions on caddies standing behind players which takes immediate effect.

In summary, a player can now back away from his or her stance anywhere on the course and avoid a breach if the caddie had been standing in a location behind the ball while the rule does not apply if a caddie is not “deliberately” standing behind a player.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, said: “These clarifications are designed to improve the operation of the rule and give the players more opportunity to avoid a breach while remaining true to the purpose of the rule.

“We appreciate that this requires some players and caddies to make an adjustment but we believe there is widespread acceptance that it is for the player alone to line up a shot.”

His USPGA counterpart, Thomas Pagel, added: “Experience has taught us that introducing a new Rule requires us to balance patience with a willingness to act quickly when necessary.

“With so many pivotal changes to the Rules this year, we’ve committed to offering any assistance needed in making the Rules easier to understand and apply, without taking away the inherent challenge of playing the game. We appreciate that everyone involved in drafting these clarifications worked together with this same goal in mind.”

* Former Scottish Amateur champion Michael Stewart won a Mediterranean Tour event at Katameya Dunes Lakes in Egypt, beating Englishman Garrick Porteous at the third extra hole. Stewart had earlier shot rounds of 71-69-66 for for a ten-under-par total.