Watch: Accidental Violation of Confusing New Rule Costs Golfer $100,000


The staff of The Western Journal is working a reduced schedule over Easter weekend to allow our employees the opportunity for rest and worship with their families if they so choose. We are re-publishing this article as a service to our readers, who reacted strongly to it when it first ran.

If you think some of the rules in the NFL are overly complicated or just flat-out nonsensical, wait until you hear about a new PGA Tour rule that cost one golfer $100,000.

Starting this month, the USGA’s Rules of Golf implemented Rule 10.2b(4).

It says, “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.”

Rule 10.3b(3) adds a little more detail on exactly what caddies are not allowed to do.

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They must not “(d)eliberately stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the player’s ball when the player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made (Rule 10.2b(4)) or take other actions prohibited by Rule 10.2b.”

Enter Haotong Li, or, more appropriately, his caddie.

On the final hole of the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, Li had a short birdie putt that would have put him at 16-under and in a five-way tie for third.

But after the tournament, officials on the European Tour assessed a two-stroke penalty on Li for violating that new rule.

He wound up finishing in a tie for 12th place. As a result, Li lost about $104,000 as his earnings went from about $155,000 to about $51,000.

While the rule makes little sense on its face, Li’s caddie, Mike Burrow, didn’t even appear to violate it. Burrow was moving off the line before Li got into his stance.

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Nonetheless, Li became the first casualty of the new rule.

Some of his peers, including Paul McGinley, blasted the call.

“This is so ridiculously marginal. The player should be given the benefit of the doubt. The rule changes are largely about the spirit of the game & player integrity not this pedanticness,” McGinley tweeted.

Golfer William McGirt did not hold back in voicing his displeasure.

“I’d have to call BS on the @haotong_li penalty today,” McGirt tweeted. “He wasn’t even set to make a practice stroke much less an actual stroke at the ball. @USGA & @RandA get it wrong again. #killingthegame.”

European Tour CEO Keith Pelley released a statement calling the ruling “grossly unfair.”

“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,” Pelley said. “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.

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“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.”

R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers responded to Pelley by defending the referee.

“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,” Slumbers said.

“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,” he said.

This won’t be the last we hear about this rule.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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