Players, caddies and much of golf social media were in an uproar Friday, when news broke that Denny McCarthy was issued a two-stroke penalty for allegedly violating a new rule involving caddie alignment in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Upon further review, however, the USGA, R&A — along with the PGA Tour — decided the penalty would be rescinded, adjusting McCarthy’s Round 2 score from 67 (with the penalty) to 65.
“Rules official Slugger White comes rolling up on No. 11 as we’re walking to the tee shot,” caddie Derek Smith told The Caddie Network. “I was a little ahead of Denny. Slugger wanted to talk to Denny. My first thought is, ‘Uh-oh, what happened now?’ I asked if I was OK where I was standing because sometimes the official just wants to talk to the player. Slugger said I was fine. That’s when it hit me that, ‘wow, they’re giving it back to us.’ We were told before the round that it went way up to the USGA. Slugger said the penalty was being rescinded and they made the decision that they needed to get on re-wording the rule and that would start with taking away the two-shot penalty.
“The other instances that were pointed out with other guys really got it going,” Smith added. “Ultimately, it got kind of emotional, honestly, for me. It’s one of those things where if you’re penalizing me for something, fine. But if something is my fault and it’s costing someone I care a lot about… it’s tough. It was awesome that it was overturned, but I was more happy for the game in a sense. Everything got taken care of in a proper manner and we’ll have a better rule now. The fact that we didn’t have to pay for it before the better rule goes into place was icing on the cake. I applaud the Tour and the USGA for coming to that conclusion. We never tried to gain an advantage. They recognized that. They took the initiative to fix the rule so we’re not stepping on egg shells. What they’re making it isn’t determined yet, but it’s going to get fixed.”
Smith said that McCarthy couldn’t get a lot going in Saturday’s round, where he shot 71. But hearing that the penalty was overturned provided a boost.
“The card doesn’t reflect it, but he was happy to have the two strokes back and get on with his business — just like he did when we were notified of the penalty on Friday,” Smith said.
The PGA 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.”
Here’s a statement from the USGA on the rescinded penalty:
“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.”