On Friday of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Denny McCarthy received a two-stroke penalty under Rule 10.2b(4), which does not allow caddies to stand behind players as they line up. It's one of the notable changes to the Rules of Golf that went into effect at the start of the year. But the PGA Tour announced on Saturday that officials have reviewed that ruling and have rescinded the penalty.
McCarthy's score from Friday, accordingly, has been adjusted from a 67 to a 65.
In a statement, the PGA Tour said that it worked with the USGA and R&A on how to interpret the new rule, and that Justin Thomas and his caddie faced a similar penalty during the same round. After looking at footage of both incidents, the decision was that neither player should be penalized, resulting in McCarthy getting his two shots back and Thomas not receiving a penalty.
The PGA Tour's 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."
Many took to Twitter to talk about the Friday penalty, including Thomas who at the time called the ruling "ridiculous."
The USGA also released a statement on Saturday, saying that the actions of McCarthy and his caddie do not warrant penalty under the new rule.
"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."
These conversations over Rule 10.2b(4) are occurring less than a week after Haotong Li was penalized for his caddie lining him up on the 18th green at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The two-stroke penalty moved him from T-3 to T-12 in the European Tour event.