The PGA Tour took the remarkable step on Saturday of rescinding the two-stroke penalty assessed to Denny McCarthy during Friday's second round of the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
McCarthy was controversially penalized two shots when his caddie, Derek Smith, was filmed standing behind him as he took practice strokes before his fourth shot at the par-5 25th at TPC Scottsdale. Under a strict interpretation of new Rule 10.2b(4), a caddie standing behind a player when they take a stance near the ball is viewed as a violation. Though McCarthy backed off the shot, he was still penalized. A player can reset their stance on the green and avoid the penalty but not in the general area.
The outcry for the penalty, as well not calling a penalty for a similar situation involving Rickie Fowler and caddie Joe Skovron, was added to the criticism from the European Tour and chief executive Keith Pelley for needing to apply the rule to Halting Li in the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic. Pelley insisted the penalty was "grossly unfair" and appealed to the R&A to change the rule's wording. R&A chief Martin Slumbers declined to do so.
Now, however, a second controversy has led to change. In consultation with the USGA and R&A, the PGA Tour will no longer interpret Rule 10.2b(4) in a way that McCarthy could be penalized. The rule was changed to prevent a caddie from lining up a player before they took back the club, so that will be the enforcement mechanism moving forward. Meanwhile, McCarthy got two strokes back.
An official statement from the PGA Tour reads:
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.