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PGA Tour rescinds Denny McCarthy penalty with ‘full support’ from USGA and R&A

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Not so fast.

Less than 24 hours after Denny McCarthy was penalized two shots at the Waste Management Phoenix Open for violating one of the new Rules of Golf involving caddie alignment, the PGA Tour announced it has rescinded the penalty.

McCarthy and his caddie, Derek Smith, were initially found to have broken Rule 10.2b(4), which prohibits a player from having his or her caddie deliberately stand behind him or her when the player begins taking a stance. On the 15th hole Friday at TPC Scottsdale, Smith stood behind McCarthy, in the line of play, while McCarthy took practice swings. Smith walked away after a few seconds and McCarthy reset his position before hitting his 65-yard shot onto the green and making what he thought was par.

According to the rule, players can only reset their position on the green without receiving penalty, which was the basis of the Tour’s initial ruling.

Now, the Tour has changed its mind after communicating with golf’s governing bodies and Justin Thomas, who expressed concern about the rule and a similar situation involving him and his caddie, Jimmie Johnson, as Thomas was chipping on the 13th hole Friday.

Full-field scores from the Waste Management Phoenix Open

Waste Management Phoenix Open: Articles, photos and videos

“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,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “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.”

McCarthy finished 36 holes at 6 under, but without the penalty will be credited with being 8 under entering the weekend. He was playing his third round when the penalty was officially rescinded.

The USGA also released a statement, explaining more of why McCarthy, and Thomas for that matter, were not found to have violated the rule.

“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 USGA statement said. “The same would be true for any similar situation that might occur.”

There was no mention by the USGA of last Sunday’s rule violation involving Haotong Li and his caddie in Dubai.

The Tour said it will continue to work “vigorously” with the USGA and R&A to “further analyze and improve the situation with this rule.”

“We agree with the rule,” said Slugger White, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competition, “just the interpretation is a little difficult right now.”

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Team playoff format modified in men’s golf

The Division I Competition Oversight Committee approved adjusting how team playoffs are conducted in the Division I Men’s Golf Championships. 

Starting in 2019, an aggregate playoff counting scores of all five players on a team will be used to narrow the field from 30 to 15 and then again from 15 teams to the eight that advance to match play. The playoff would still be conducted in a “shotgun” format with the competing teams playing on five different holes.

Previously, team playoffs counted the low four scores of five team members relative to par.

The Division I Men’s Golf Committee believes using the aggregate score for the five players will make it less confusing to fans, coaches and players since all team members’ scores count toward their team total. Additionally, committee members said counting all five scores makes it likely that playoffs will end quicker.

RELATED: DI men’s golf championship history

Regional course access policy

The Division I Competition Oversight Committee approved a proposal that courses hosting a regional tournament not be permitted to host a regular-season or conference postseason event during the prior academic year. 

The men’s golf committee has heard feedback from coaches in the past that teams may have benefited from having played the golf course where regionals were conducted.

The committee believes this does not provide a fair playing situation to all teams selected to that regional site. The men’s golf committee is not indicating that the host cannot conduct an event in the city of the regional, just that the regular-season event would need to be played at another golf course in the city that year.

However, the committee will provide a waiver for any site that has a previously scheduled event for the 2018-19 academic year.

MORE: All of Tiger Woods’ college records and achievements


The competition oversight committee also approved a recommendation that player substitutions be permitted during all conference postseason tournaments that determine the automatic qualifier for both teams and individuals. 

Many conferences over the past year have asked to use the same substitution option for their postseason tournaments that was permitted at regionals and finals during the 2018 Division I Men’s Golf Championships.

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