February 01, 2019

Rules of Golf - Controversial Ruling in Dubai

Li Haotong received a two-stroke penalty at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

We are just one month into the new Rules and it seems most golfers are enjoying them. Obviously, dropping from knee height and putting with the flagstick in the hole are the most visible changes. The first controversial ruling regarding the new Rules took place last week in Dubai and it got many in the media charged up.

In the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Li Haotong was on the 18th green with a three-foot putt for birdie which would vault him into a tie for third place and earn him approximately $150,000. Li made the putt; however, the Rules Committee noticed something that they needed to review.

Li and his caddie were reading the putt and discussing the line. Li then approached his ball while his caddie inspected the line for another couple of seconds while standing directly behind the player on an extension of the line of play behind the ball. Li began taking his stance and then his caddie stepped away. (see video at bottom of story)

Rule 10.2b(4) prohibits a caddie or partner from deliberately standing in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason either during the stroke or when the player begins to take his stance. The Officials in Dubai needed to determine if the caddie was standing behind Li when he began to take his stance. So the question is – What constitutes when the player begins to take his stance? An excerpt from Interpretation 10.2b(4)/1 answers this question for us:

There is no set procedure for determining when a player has begun to take a stance since each player has his or her own set-up routine. However, if a player has his or her feet or body close to a position where useful guidance on aiming at the intended target could be given, it should be decided that the player has begun to take his or her stance.
Examples of when a player has begun to take a stance include when:

  • The player is standing beside the ball but facing the hole with his or her club behind the ball, and then starts to turn his or her body to face the ball.
  • After standing behind the ball to determine the target line, the player takes a step forward and then starts to turn his or her body and puts a foot in place for the stroke.

After reading the above Interpretation and watching the video, it is clear that Li turns his body and places his right foot in position for the stroke and then his caddie steps away. Whether you like or dislike Rule 10.2b(4), it is a clear breach of the Rule and the appropriate penalty of two strokes were applied to his score on the hole. It was a very costly mistake as it moved him from a tie for third into tied for twelfth and he earned about $100,000 less than he could have.

There is an exception to Rule 10.2b(4) that when the player’s ball is on the putting green, there is no penalty if the player backs away from the stance and restarts his stance after the caddie has moved. This exception only applies when the ball is on the putting green. Watch Jim Furyk on the putting green; he frequently uses this exception as part of his pre-shot routine on the putting green.

As we always say, knowing the Rules can save you strokes.

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