Unpenalized and with the DDF Irish Open trophy firmly in his grasp, Jon Rahm stood by the mechanics he used to mark and ultimately replace his ball on the sixth green during the final round that later came under scrutiny.
Rahm's lag putt rolled to within 2 feet of the hole on No. 6, and as he explained it his ball came to rest directly in front of the mark of playing partner Daniel Im. As a result, he placed his mark slightly to the side of the ball, then moved it a putter head length to get out of Im's line. When replays showed him replacing the ball, though, he appeared to put it back directly in front of the mark - not to the side.
European Tour officials discussed possibly assessing a two-shot penalty for playing from the wrong spot, a la the one handed down to Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration, but ultimately decided Rahm exercised "reasonable judgment" in replacing his ball and therefore gave him no penalty. Leading by five shots when told of the official decision, Rahm went on to win by six.
Following the round, the Spaniard told Golf Channel that his initial move to mark to the side was "kind of unconventional but the situation called for it" and added that because of the rainy conditions "we kind of did it fast." But he believes he ultimately replaced the ball in the proper position.
"I moved the mark, put it back, and to my eyes I put the ball back exactly where it was," Rahm said. "I did not know I might have moved it. I thought it was exactly the same place."
Andy McFee, chief rules official for the European Tour, believes there may have been a slight difference between where the ball came to rest and where it was replaced. But he equated it to the difference between 10 o'clock and 11 o'clock on a watch, a slight enough gap that it could be absolved by the new rule created in the wake of Thompson's imbroglio in April.
"When he put the ball back down, he said, 'I think I made an effort to put it back to the side,' which tallies with what I see on the pictures," McFee said. "Because if he didn't, he'd be putting it back immediately in front of the marker, and he didn't. He moved it slightly to the side.
"So do I think he's got the ball in exactly the right place? No, I don't. I think the ball is slightly in the wrong place, but we're talking about maybe a couple millimeters here or there. So then that falls within the limitation of video evidence, and it comes down to has the player made a reasonable judgment? And I believe he has."
Rahm went on to shoot a final-round 65 and break the tournament scoring record by three shots, and he is hopes that any controversy stemming from the situation will not overshadow 72 holes of stellar play at Portstewart.
"It just kills me that my win will have this little mark on it, just because of things that happen in golf," Rahm said. "I thought it was exactly the same spot. Andy agreed with me, but on 13 I did tell him, 'Listen, if it's a two-shot penalty, let me know now. I'll accept it. If I've done it, I've done it.' I know I've knowingly put it on the side; I thought I put it back perfectly."