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19th Hole

POLL: Backstopping on the PGA Tour: Big deal or who cares?

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Fueled by Jimmy Walker’s statement-of-the-obvious tweets the other day, backstopping is once again a topic of discussion in the world of golf.

If you’re unaware what backstopping is, well, for one thing, you can thank Geoff Shackelford for coming up with the term (Thanks, Geoff). With respect to a definition, Jason Day explained it pretty well to Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger.

“Backstopping is when you and your playing partner are off the green and you chip up and don’t mark your ball and he chips and hits the ball, which causes him to be closer to the hole than he was going to be.”

For reference, the Walker tweet in question read

“If you don’t like a guy you will mark anyway…If you like the guy you might leave it to help on a shot. Some guys don’t want to give help at all and rush to mark their ball. To each his own.”

Now, before digging any deeper, it’s important to remember that backstopping, when done deliberately, is quite illegal. Rule 22 of the Rules of Golf states, “In stroke play, if the committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitor, they are disqualified.”

Of course, determining that “competitors have agreed,” would always be difficult, but still…

Plenty of folks are fired up about players helping players: Curtis Strange, and Paul Azinger in particular. Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have both made remarks opposing the practice recently.

Rather than cataloguing the responses, we want to know what the GolfWRX membership thinks. Assuming backstopping is commonly practiced on Tour, what are your thoughts?

Is backstopping in professional golf a big deal?

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Feel free to elaborate on your vote in the comments!

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. ewfnick

    Jun 14, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    Is this worse than crushing a tee shot into the gallery and not shouting fore?

  2. Matt

    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    If a guy was able to reliably hit a shot into another ball, would he not just take that extraordinary accuracy and hit the hole instead?

  3. thebigdad

    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:56 am

    #markthedamnedball

  4. James T

    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:43 am

    The intent of the rule is that your shot is your shot, dependent on your skill. Not a wayward shot saved by a ball/backstop. Always mark within 20 yards. No wink and a nod.

  5. Murica

    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:30 am

    People suck. People don’t want to play by the rules. People don’t want to obey the law. America the great.

  6. john

    Jun 13, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    It’s a rule and pros need to follow the rules. So either DQ them or get rid of the rule. This should be followed in all competition play.

    For the weekend golfer, it’s a moot point since most rules are more like guidelines.

  7. MikeyB

    Jun 13, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    I don’t see how this can be a ‘thing’ in professional golf with so many rules junkies in the gallery. How often do we see ‘chipped’ balls making contact anyway? Yes, we do see approach shots from say 125+ yards occasionally roll out and make contact. No one however is running in from 175 yards to mark a ball before the opponent takes his turn.

    Quite frankly this sounds like a non-issue. Announcers always make a point of saying that when the balls make contact someone will have to try and figure out as best they can where the balls should be placed before being putted.

  8. DJ May

    Jun 13, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Hey PGA…let’s do something about slow play. Watching Pat “happy feet” Cantlay at the Memorial was outrageous. Give them shot link numbers to the pin when they approach their ball, throw some grass in the air if needed, consult yardage book for danger areas on green ect…and hit the ball

  9. Tommy

    Jun 13, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    When I’m ready to play, it’s a pain for my near cripple playing partner to make it to the green to mark when I’m ready to play. If he asks, I’ll say “no”, I’m ready to play. I’ve already been waiting for you to hit it…there. I think it’s not much of an issue except in rare instances…those should stop and I’m sure it will after this hiccup.

  10. Matt

    Jun 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Might as well add a 3 foot circle around the hole and just give a gimme. They’re only making millions upon millions of dollars who needs to play fair. They should change it to if it’s not marked and just sitting there then it can not be moved back because it was a backstop. If people are worried about pace of play because of marking a ball they don’t know Speith being slow on every shot with multiple times taking over a half hour between shots.

  11. JThunder

    Jun 13, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    A golf ball is a smaller target than the hole. If you’re not able to hit the hole with your chip, then it’s unlikely you can aim at the ball as a backstop. It will happen, but you could argue the chances are fairly slim.

    I believe this has become common because pros would rather spend their time reading putts and working with their caddies rather than running around marking balls. Wasn’t there a time when balls weren’t marked and stymies, etc?

    Anyway – whatever the decision is, just keep the pace of play improving. We certainly don’t need anything to further slow down the pro game.

  12. faq

    Jun 13, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    ‘backstopping’ sounds fallacious… (_*_)

  13. Nathan

    Jun 13, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    On the PGA tour I wouldn’t mind them marking the ball (they have a caddie to help speed play), but again if you enforce this to everyone on a local level it will be a slow day of golf. Most people are thinking about their shot and not about a backstop. However, I think if a competitor asks you to mark, you mark (courtesy). If someone who just hit is asking you about marking they are generally asking if they need to rush up there to mark. This is usually my way of saying I’d rather not rush up there, but I will if you want me to. If I knew it was going to be a competitive advantage against me, I’d always mark. I do not believe you get a lot of intentional backstopping. It is really up to the player who has the ball near to hole to determine the outcome.

    • MattD

      Jun 13, 2018 at 6:43 pm

      If a ball is sitting near the hole and the player who hit it says “do you want me to mark that” and you say “no”, the two of you have agreed to leave a ball in place that will give you an advantage and that’s a breach of Rule 22.

  14. kevin

    Jun 13, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    i’m not surprised so many don’t care either way, but i’m willing to bet some of those would at least like to see the rule clarified so all players on treating each situation the same. get everyone on the same page whatever that may be. as it is now, some ignore the rule, some use it to help others, and other players follow the rule as its intended. the problem with the rule is its vague and hard to prove intent.

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19th Hole

Lexi Thompson violates Rules of Golf at Indy Women in Tech Championship

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During the third round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship, Lexi Thompson unknowingly ran afoul of the Rules of Golf.

Preferred lies–AKA lift, clean, and place–were in effect at soggy Brickyard Crossing. Thompson hit her drive at the par-5 10th hole wide right. It settled in the sixth fairway. Believing she was allowed to lift and clean any ball in the fairway, Thompson began to do so.

The rule, of course, only applies to balls that settle in one’s own fairway. Fortunately for Thompson, an official saw what was happening and stepped in to administer a penalty.

“Thankfully, Marty [the official] intervened before she hit her next shot,” Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill reported. “Otherwise, she would have been hitting from the wrong spot, and it would have been a two-shot penalty. So, in a sense, it saved her a shot.”

The LPGA issued this statement.

“While playing the third round of the 2018 Indy Women in Tech Championship, Lexi Thompson incurred a one-stroke penalty for breach of the preferred lies local Rule (Appendix IA Part 3b Course Conditions).”

“The Committee adopted the preferred lies local Rule due to the turf conditions of the golf course after receiving over an inch of rain. The LPGA, under the local Rule, restricts the player from preferring her lie when her ball lies in a closely-mown area of a hole other than the one being played.”

“During the play of hole #10, Thompson’s tee shot came to rest in the fairway of hole #6. As Thompson’s ball lay on the fairway of hole #6, she was not entitled to prefer her lie.”

“She preferred her lie in breach of the local Rule but prior to playing her stroke from a wrong place (Rule 20-7), she was questioned by a Rules official regarding her actions. As she had not played her stroke from the preferred spot, she did not receive the general penalty of two-strokes under the local Rule. However, she did incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 for lifting her ball at rest without authority.”

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19th Hole

Joe LaCava, Tiger Woods’ caddie, paid a heckler $25 to leave at the WGC-Bridgestone

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While Steve Williams would likely have taken a different route, Tiger Woods’ current caddie admitted to bribing a fan to leave his boss alone.

LaCava called into ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo” and told a tale of paying of a heckler at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

LaCava said the man heckled Woods throughout his final round at the Bridgestone, and on the 14th hole, LaCava interceded, telling the man to check out action elsewhere on the course. Interestingly/absurdly, the man said he would be happy to, provided LaCava reimburse him for his ticket.

Here’s the full transcript c/o ESPN.

Mike Golic: “Did you have any issues with the people at Bellerive?”

Joe LaCava: “Not at all, and you hit it right on the head, 99 percent of the guys and women are behind Tiger, pushing for Tiger. They want to see good golf in general they’re not anti-the-other-guys, but they’re certainly rooting for Tiger more so than the other guys. But, funny you guys ask that question. The week before in Akron, I had a little incident with a guy who was harassing my guy on the 14th hole at Akron the last day outside the ropes, roughening him up pretty good. And I said, hey listen bud, why do you gotta go there? Everyone’s having a good time, everyone’s pulling for Tiger. You don’t like the guy that’s one thing, but you don’t to be yelling at my guy, screaming negative stuff like that. And I said at the end of the day, if you affect him, his performance, it effects my bottomline. So he calls me a couple names and I go back and forth with the guy, and I say why don’t you just leave. And he says well if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today I’ll leave. And I said here you go, here’s $25.”

Mike: “Did he leave?”

Joe: “So I whip out $25 and he starts to go down the 14th fairway toward the green. I say look pal $25 is $25 you gotta head the other way. So he starts to head the other way, he goes 20 yards down the line, then he calls me a certain other, a swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way and I’m going face to face with this guy. And all the sudden Tiger’s looking for a yardage, and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line. So some cop has to come in, push this guy outta the way, and take him outta the tournament.

Mike: “So what did Tiger say when you came back to give him the yardage?”

Joe: “Well that’s a great question. We were so far to the right of the trees, and he was on his third shot believe it or not, we were still 150 yards away from the green, and he didn’t really know what happened. He heard the commotion, he heard the guy yelling at him, so we talked about it after the fact, but he didn’t really know how it developed. And he says I was wondering what happened, and he goes normally it wouldn’t that long to get a yardage. I said well a little incident down the road. He didn’t have a problem with it, and actually I gotta standing ovation for kicking the guy outta there.

Security probably should have happened sooner when LaCava was $25 richer.

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19th Hole

A brief cart ride (by his caddie) has big implications for Akshay Bhatia at the U.S. Amateur

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16-year-old Akshay Bhatia may be looking for a new caddie for his next event. The rising star of amateur golf was penalized when his caddie accepted a ride on a golf cart at the 14th hole during the round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur.

Bhatia would go on to lose to Bradford Tilley.

The match was all square at the 14th. Chris Darnell, Bhatia’s caddie, made a pit stop at the bathroom after Bhatia hit his approach. While the player walked to the green, Darnell was approached by what he believed was a USGA official driving a golf cart.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell said afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Of course, neither players nor caddies can ride on any form of transportation during the round unless authorized, per the Rules of Golf. Bhatia was penalized accordingly and lost the hole after a (real) official spotted the infraction.

Particularly frustrating for the golfer was the fact that he had birdied the par-5 and believed he was going 1 up on his opponent, only to find out they were all square.

As mentioned, Bhatia would go on to lose in 19 holes.

Adding another layer to this drama, Darnell said Tilley’s caddie had done the same thing earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

What are the chances Tilley or his caddie admit to the infraction now? And who is this mystery idiot who loves the USGA enough to drape himself in their garb but is daft enough to blatantly break a straightforward rule of competition?

Dumb rule? Certainly in this sense. But so many situations exist in amateur play that you can understand why the USGA would level a prohibition on transportation. Still, shouldn’t there be some room for interpretation? It’s difficult to argue Bhatia himself gained any advantage…

What do you think, GolfWRX members?

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