Denny McCarthy rules violation rescinded at Waste Management
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Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Denny McCarthy had one of the more eventful even-par rounds of his career Saturday, when the chatter centered around whether or not he and his caddie had violated one of the new Rules of Golf by lining him up the day before.
He hadn’t, as it turned out, but it was a long road in getting there.
After incurring a two-stroke penalty for an alleged violation of Rule 10.2b(4) in round two, McCarthy was in the middle of his third round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale when everything changed. The penalty, he was told, had been rescinded.
“In no way, shape or form did I think what I did yesterday was a penalty,” he said.
Without the penalty, McCarthy’s second round became a 65 instead of a 67, and he shot up the leaderboard. He shot an even-par 71 Saturday and was at 8-under overall.
“We were not trying to break that rule,” said Derek Smith, McCarthy’s caddie. “I’ve never lined him up, I never would have, even if it was still legal. There was never any intent regardless of where I was standing. I was strictly there talking about the shot he was about to play.”
MUST READS: Round 3, Waste Management Phoenix Open
McCarthy had hit his second shot in the water at the par-5 15th hole when he dropped at the edge of the water hazard fronting the green. Smith got behind the shot, as many caddies routinely do, in order to evaluate the shot from the player’s perspective.
A rules official informed them as they came off the green that the moment would be under video review and could result in a penalty. McCarthy was told he would in fact be penalized after he hit his tee shot at the second hole. (He had begun his round on the back nine.)
Players came to his support on Twitter, and after copious replays, McCarthy and Smith were on the 11th hole Saturday when the PGA TOUR’s Vice President of Rules and Competition Slugger White informed them that the penalty was being rescinded.
"Bottom line, we want it right," White said. "We want it correct. These guys, it's their livelihood and we want it to be rock solid that we were correct in what we did."
“I wonder what the scoring looked like at home,” said Smith, a former Division I golfer who met McCarthy after trying to Monday-qualify for a Web.com Tour event in Wichita, Kansas.
“Caddies want to see what the players see,” McCarthy said. “It’s not so much about alignment. They’re trying to assess the shot with the player; I just happened to be in there next to the ball, with him, on the angle that my shot was on, trying to assess the shot. In my opinion and many others, I think, also, that’s not a penalty.
“If he was in there deliberately looking at where I’m lining up,” McCarthy added, “and I’m setting up to the ball, and I don’t back away, yeah, I could see how that’s a two-shot penalty.”
The TOUR issued the following statement:
"Since the situation during Round 2 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which resulted in PGA TOUR player Denny McCarthy receiving a two-stroke penalty under Rule 10.2b(4), the PGA TOUR has been in constant contact with the USGA about how the new rule should be interpreted. During the course of these discussions, this morning a similar situation from yesterday’s round involving Justin Thomas was also brought to our attention.
"It is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among players and caddies on the practical application of the new rule during competition, as well as questions surrounding the language of the rule itself and how it should be interpreted. As a result, with the full support of the USGA and The R&A, the rule will be interpreted whereby the two aforementioned situations as well as future similar situations will not result in a penalty. McCarthy’s score has been updated accordingly.
"We will be working vigorously with the USGA and The R&A over the coming days to further analyze and improve the situation with this rule. The USGA and The R&A will be making an announcement shortly."
The USGA released the following statement:
"Following an ongoing dialogue with players and in cooperation with the PGA TOUR rules team, the USGA and The R&A revisited the penalty assessed to Denny McCarthy during Round 2 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. After an additional review of available video this morning, it was determined that the penalty would not apply in this instance nor in a similar instance involving Justin Thomas. In each of these cases, when the caddie was standing behind the player, the player had not yet begun taking the stance for the stroke, nor could useful guidance on aiming be given because the player was still in the process of determining how to play the stroke. The same would be true for any similar situation that might occur.
"The USGA and The R&A recognize that further clarity on how to appropriately apply this Rule is needed. We are committed to assessing its impact and will provide the necessary clarifications in the coming days."
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.