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News Tour Championship winner latest victim of two-stroke penalty for having his caddie line him up (UPDATE: Justin Thomas, fellow tour pros criticize ruling)

February 01, 2019
Waste Management Phoenix Open - Round One

Christian Petersen

Last Sunday, China’s Haotong Li committed the first known infraction of the new rule that prohibits caddies from lining up their players. On the 72nd hole of the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Li’s caddie was seen standing behind him as he stepped in to strike his short birdie putt, which he went on to make. But it became a bogey after Li was hit with a two-stroke penalty, dropping him outside of the top 10.

The ruling became a major controversy in the coming days, as many questioned if it was fair considering the fact Li’s caddie was walking away before Li was ever really over the ball. But the damage was already done, and Li fell from T-3 to T-12.

This latest breach of the rule seems a bit clearer, and it occurred on Friday in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, making it the first known infraction on the PGA Tour this year. Denny McCarthy, who won the Tour Championship this past September, hit his second shot into the water at TPC Scottsdale’s par-5 15th. After taking a drop, Golf Channel’s cameras captured McCarthy’s caddie standing directly behind him as he lined up to hit his fourth into the green.

While it appeared that McCarthy was just taking a few practice swings next to the ball, rule 10.2(b)4 clearly states that caddies cannot “stand behind a golfer once the player has begun to address their ball in preparation of taking a stroke.” In this instance, McCarthy’s caddie stood right behind him as he addressed the ball before taking two practice swings, and then he fully walked away.

On the Golf Channel broadcast, Justin Leonard mentioned that the rule also states that you can rectify the situation on the putting green. If you’re caddie lines you up, you can step out and restart your routine without a penalty. The same does not go for situations off the putting green. McCarthy wound up getting up and down for par, but with the penalty he made double bogey. He’s fought back to four under for the tournament, so fortunately for him, he should still make the cut. We’ll keep you updated if that changes.

UPDATE: McCarthy wound up carding a four-under 67 even with the two-stroke penalty, putting him at six under the tournament. He's seven back of leader Rickie Fowler, which is by no means out of it but he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Those extra two shots would have been nice. Let's hope it doesn't make too big of a financial difference on Sunday for McCarthy, who is looking to finish in the top 10 for just the third time in his career on he PGA Tour.

UPDATE: Video of the penalty is beginning to make the rounds on Twitter, and a few tour pros have weighed in. Among them is Justin Thomas, who is one back of Rickie Fowler through two rounds. Thomas is not a fan of the new rule, to say the least:

A couple of other well-known pros saw Thomas' tweet and echoed his sentiments:

Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner caught up with McCarthy after the round, and McCarthy was just as confused as everyone:

Never a dull moment with the new Rules of Golf.