Caddies On The Line At Saucon

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- It is as much a part of women's professional golf as ball markers clipped to visor brims. Caddies frequently help their players line up a shot, confirming that their alignment is correct.

The final pairing in the third round of the U.S. Women's Open at Saucon Valley CC was a prime example. Caddies John Killeen (Cristie Kerr) and Colin Cann (Paula Creamer) helped their bosses line up almost every shot.

The practice happens in men's golf, but for whatever reason, not nearly as frequently. As long as the caddie steps away from the line of play or line of putt prior to the stroke, it is legal under the Rules of Golf. If a caddie doesn't move off the line, it is a violation of Rule 14-2, with a two-stroke penalty in stroke play.

For years, it was permissible for caddies to remain on the line during a stroke, as done most notably by Andy Martinez when he worked for Johnny Miller in the 1970s. Then it was outlawed on the putting green but allowed on other shots, until about a decade ago.

Many people think the prevailing practice  looks bad, but don't expect it to be outlawed.

"The Rules of Golf committees of the USGA and the R&A have looked at the issue," said Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competitions for the USGA. "As much as people don't like it, you could almost trap a player if you said a caddie couldn't ever be back on the line. A caddie is allowed to give advice to his player. The feeling is, how do you draw that line? People talk about the negatives, both from how it looks and the pace of play, but I don't think you're going to see a change."

Davis believes golfers who haven't relied on a caddie to confirm their alignment might begin doing so when they get on the LPGA Tour and see so many other players doing it. "I equate it to wearing metal spikes on the PGA Tour," Davis said. "Kids who have played their entire lives and never worn a metal spike, they come out and if Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson are wearing them, they think it's a competitive disadvantage if they don't do it."

*-- Bill Fields *