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Tour players call for update, removal of Rule 10.2b(4)

Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas
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Rickie Fowler (left) and Justin Thomas walk off the sixth tee during the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 02, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)  - 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – If one were handing out awards this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the 16th hole would likely win Most Popular.

Rule 10.2b(4)? Not so much.

“It’s just an odd rule,” said Denny McCarthy, who was penalized two shots Friday for violating said rule, which confusingly prohibits caddies from lining up their players, before the PGA Tour stepped in Saturday and rescinded the penalty.

McCarthy’s peers took the disdain for the rule further.

“Might be one of the stupidest rules I've ever heard,” said Rickie Fowler.

Added Justin Thomas: “I don’t think you could ask a player on Tour and they would say it’s a good rule. It’s horrendous that it was somehow approved.”

Both Fowler and Thomas were also put in an awkward situation Friday night thanks to 10.2b(4), as videos of them potentially breaking the rule surfaced on social media. Upon seeing the footage of his caddie Jimmie Johnson standing behind him on the 13th green during the second round, Thomas immediately contacted the Tour, which Thomas said told him that it was discussing with the USGA and R&A about “suspending” the rule until it could clarify its interpretation.

By mid-Morning on Saturday, the Tour released a statement saying McCarthy would not be penalized.

The move was met with unanimous praise from players and caddies alike.

“I think it’s awesome,” Matt Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, said of the Tour’s decision. “I think it was a stupid penalty. I think it was a stupid rule.”

Wood is a 23-year veteran on Tour and said caddies lining players up at this level “just doesn’t happen out here.”

“I’ve never had a caddie line me up on any shot ever, but I’ve had guys stand behind me,” Russell Knox said.

In Wood’s opinion, caddies should be able to stand behind players as long as they don’t purposely line players up.

“I think intent needs to be part of it,” Wood said, before “rewriting” the rule himself.

“‘A caddie can’t stand behind his player with the intent of lining him up for his shot.’ It’s that simple.”

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Many agree with Wood that the verbiage of 10.2b(4) should be changed similarly.

“I get the whole lining up part and taking that out, but I had no intent to even hit the golf ball for one,” said Fowler, referencing when his caddie, Joe Skovron, accidentally stood behind Fowler for a brief moment in the 13th fairway Friday before quickly stepping away. “And it's just kind of stupid. We'll see where it goes. … I mean, you're talking about growing the game and making things play faster and whatnot, but that's not growing the game, I mean you're giving someone a two-shot penalty for doing nothing and not getting any sort of advantage. That's not what we are here to do.”

Added Knox: “It’s obvious if someone lines someone up. If there’s intent, then yes, it’s a penalty, but if a caddie is just standing there, there’s no way you should be penalized.”

Max Homa said players and caddies have been on edge since Haotong Li was slapped with a two-shot penalty for violating 10.2b(4) last Sunday in Dubai. The feeling was heightened following McCarthy’s situation.

“We had to play all day today freaking out if my caddie is anywhere near me,” Homa said.

Even with the penalty being taken away, Homa strongly believes more needs to be done.

"Get rid of the rule, or just look at intent,” Homa said. “Did Denny try to cheat? No. Was he trying to get lined up? No. He didn’t even address the ball, he backed out of the shot. It’s just ridiculous.

“My dad taught me that this is the best game to play because it’s a gentlemen’s game and you call penalties on yourself. Now, it really doesn’t seem like you call penalties on yourself. It seems like somebody decides if you’re cheating or not, and it’s becoming outrageous.”

Thomas called on Twitter for the governing bodies to get rid of 10.2b(4) altogether. When asked about changing the lingo to include intent, Thomas disagreed that was the best move.

“I hate the word intent because then there's a gray area and I don't like gray areas just because it's, I think, a black-and-white rule is the best way to go about it, because then you either broke the rule or you didn't versus, well I didn't intend to, but you did, you know what I'm saying?” Thomas said. “… This is one that definitely needs to be changed and improved, and hopefully will.”