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Justin Thomas rips USGA for new rule, which saw yet another Tour pro controversially penalized



Update 2/3: The USGA has reversed the penalty assessed to Denny McCarthy

If the USGA thought that updates to the rules of golf would help modernize the sport and keep themselves out of the headlines, then 2019 has been a rude awakening.

Haotong Li’s penalty on the European Tour caused controversy in Dubai last week, and on Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a penalty called on PGA Tour pro Denny McCarthy had the golfing world enraged.

McCarthy received a two-stroke penalty on the 15th hole, after violating Rule 10.2b (4), which states that when a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made, his caddie cannot deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason. Despite re-setting, the 25-year-old was deemed to have breached the rule and was subsequently given a two-stroke penalty.

What followed, was a mini-mutiny amongst PGA Tour professionals, led by one of the game’s best, Justin Thomas. Despite being right in the thick of things at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Thomas took time to call out the USGA for their latest rule change, in a manner which is almost unheard of in modern sports. Thomas was outraged by the ruling, and on social media, the 25-year-old called it “ridiculous” and stressed how he felt the new rule “NEEDS to be changed asap”.

Thomas’ post is no doubt going to court controversy, but the American received backing from fellow pro’s Brandt Snedeker and Eddie Pepperell, who soon after joined the rebellion. The former tagged the USGA in his tweet and sarcastically stated “Good job simplifying the rules,” while Pepperell brutally slammed the entire ethos behind the rules of golf, with this ruthless tweet.

The USGA has been under fire for several high-profile blunders in recent years, especially in regards to its handling of U.S. Opens. With the new rules in place designed to simplify matters, the idea was apparently to keep themselves as just a backstory while letting the game of golf shine. But it has all gone pear-shaped yet again for the organization.

The audacity shown by one of the elite players in the game like Justin Thomas to call out the USGA proves that whatever patience had by the top professionals in the game has just about worn thin with regards to the governing body’s handling of the sport.

The decision to penalize players and their caddies for innocuous incidents, who possess no incentive to gain an advantage, is surely only going to lead to more controversy as we head towards major season. Just take a look at Rickie Fowler’s caddie here, who is wholly focused on his job and then becomes fearful of unintentionally infringing the latest rule implemented by the USGA.

Golf may be a gentleman’s sport, laced with history and tradition, but Friday night showed that, when feeling justified in doing so, Justin Thomas and his fellow pros are clearly not afraid to call out the powers that be. One can only wonder how the folks in Far Hills feel about such high-profile criticism.


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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag



  1. Shotmark

    Feb 15, 2019 at 4:34 am

    Contrary to their supposed intention, the way the new rules have been dumbed down seem to have the express intention of slowing down play. This rule is however spot on in my opinion.

    It puts the onus back on the player to line up shots/puts using their own skill and judgement rather than that of their caddy.

    The fact the new rule is causing so much consternation and debate suggests it was necessary. If the change had been seamless then that would suggest it hadn’t gone far enough.

    As to the entitled Justin Thomas being upset by the change, heaven forfend that anyone should do anything to offend this delicate snowflake. No doubt the fist person he hears defending the rule will be ejected from the course.

  2. Tim

    Feb 13, 2019 at 9:34 am

    This is a really old game.

    Really old.

    At its inception, the game was simple. The rules were essentially self evident. There were no issues. The objective was to get the ball in the cup in as few strokes as possible. The player with the fewest strokes wins. THAT IT.

    Sitting in a room and brainstorming situations like caddie helping a player line up.. This type of thinking will result in these types of moronic situations. Whatever minuscule damage that may come from a caddie helping a player line up his next stroke, pales in comparison to the chaos that comes from making rules to prevent it.

    Count every stroke, play it as it lies, OOB is OOB and dont worry about the conversations that the caddies are having with the players. Its just two humans talking. It has nothing to do with the objective of the sport: THE PLAYER WITH THE FEWEST STROKES WINS.

  3. Jd78

    Feb 8, 2019 at 6:56 am

    Will the pga tour please say to hell with the incompetent buffoons at the USGA and create their own rules. How many more golfers are they going to screw over with their ridiculous rulings, and how many more US opens will they ruin before it happens?

  4. A. Commoner

    Feb 2, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Major professional sports organizations make their own rules of competition; why not professional golf? The tours need to totally direct their own affairs. ‘Seeds of discontent’ have been slowly germinating over some years among professionals and amateurs alike. It is inevitable the “governing bodies” will, in time, extinguish themselves. Ineptitude and irrelevance will not save tradition.

  5. Lovejoy

    Feb 2, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    Thomas,Pepperell and gang need to grow up and shut up.
    The rule change has been made and as ‘professionals’ you would assume that all caddies have also been informed and told that under no circumstances should they encroach on the stipulated area.
    The situation was highlighted in Dubai but Mr McCarthy has either not taken it on board or believes it doesn’t apply to him.
    The player and caddie were stupid not the penalty.

  6. dat

    Feb 2, 2019 at 11:59 am

    No one outside the pro level on TV enforce this crap. And you wonder why people view golf as a masochist game.

  7. Mike

    Feb 2, 2019 at 11:41 am

    If it was Phil Michelson they wouldn’t have assed a penalty. Total bs!!!

  8. Travis

    Feb 2, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Seems like the caddie was just talking to the player about the shot. If the player backs himself out and realigns himself then there shouldn’t be a penalty. The caddie wasn’t there telling him his aim was perfect and he’s good to go. The game of golf can be so dang simple it is unbelievable, yet somehow the morons at the USGA find a way to screw it all up. They should give the rule book to a committee of 20 or so professional golfers across all Tours and I guarantee those guys could come up with a simple and universal rule system that would benefit all golfers Pros and Ams.

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Kuchar defends caddie payment: “For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week” (Update: Kuchar to pay $50K)



UPDATE: 2/15, 5:10 p.m. 

Following his opening round at the Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Classic, Matt Kuchar announced he has reversed course and will pay fill-in caddie David Ortiz $50,000 for his services during last year’s Mayakoba Classic.

Kuchar issued that statement below, via

“This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse. They made it seem like I was marginalizing David Ortiz and his financial situation, which was not my intention. I read them again and cringed. That is not who I am and not what I want to represent. My entire Tour career, I have tried to show respect and positivity. In this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I’ve set for myself. I let myself, my family, my partners and those close to me down, but I also let David down. I plan to call David tonight, something that is long overdue, to apologize for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested.

“I never wanted to bring any negativity to the Mayakoba Golf Classic. I feel it is my duty to represent the tournament well, so I am making a donation back to the event, to be distributed to the many philanthropic causes working to positively impact the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancún.

“For my fans, as well as fans of the game, I want to apologize to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport. Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves. I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”

End update. 

Earlier this week, Matt Kuchar’s stand-in caddie for last year’s Mayakoba Classic spoke about how he felt he was “taken advantage of” after receiving a payment of $5,000 following Kuchar’s win in Mexico, which carried with it a $1,296,000 winners prize. On Wednesday, Kuchar vehemently defended what he sees as a fair and just payment to David Ortiz.

In an interview with, Kuchar claimed that he was up front and honest about the arrangement prior to the event, and Ortiz had accepted the terms, which reportedly were $1,000 if Kuchar missed the cut, $2,000 if he made the cut, $3,000 if he had a top-20 and $4,000 if he had a top-10. The reason for Ortiz’ dissatisfaction with the payment post-event? That’s something Kuchar put down to outside influences.

“I kind of think someone got in his ear. I was very clear and very upfront on Tuesday (of the event). And he said, ‘OK.’ He had the ability, with bonuses, to make up to $4,000.

The extra $1,000 was, ‘Thank you — it was a great week.’ Those were the terms. He was in agreement with those terms. That’s where I struggle. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have said, ‘You need much more.’”

Ortiz previously stated in an interview with how he had been offered an additional $15,000 but had refused the offer believing it to be substantially short of his $50,000 evaluation.

On Wednesday evening, Kuchar confirmed Ortiz’ story, saying “that was the agency”, and when questioned who would have paid the additional sum had Ortiz accepted, he stated, “It’s not coming out of Steinberg’s pocket.” Referring to his agent Mark Steinberg.

Kuchar will return to Mexico next week for the WGC-Mexico Championship for the first time since his victory in Mayakoba, and for the 40-year-old, the pay dispute is now over. Further explaining why he feels his payment to Ortiz for that week in Mayakoba had been fair, Kuchar stated

“For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week.”



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Pro cards a 17 at the LECOM Suncoast Classic, but delivers a valuable message after doing so



Kevin Na’s infamous 16 at the Valero Texas Open back in 2011 will most likely follow him around for the rest of his career, but over on the Tour Ben DeArmond eclipsed that number, taking a 17 on his second hole of the day at the LECOM Suncoast Classic.

DeArmond, a club pro at TPC at Treviso Bay, opened the day with a bogey, before stepping on the tee at number two where it all went monumentally wrong. The tee shot on the par-4 second hole is a tester at Lakewood Ranch, with water down the right and OOB down the left. DeArmond hit his first tee shot out of play and then proceeded to do the same with his next five attempts too.


DeArmond finally got the ball in-play on his seventh attempt and ended up carding a brutal 17 on the hole.

Speaking after the round, DeArmond who is playing this week on a sponsors exemption said

“I couldn’t get (the ball) up in the air even with a 5-iron, so I’m not used to that, just went a little numb. I’ve never made a 17 in my life, not even when I started playing golf,” he said. “After that it was fine, just had to feel my arms a little bit. … It was just nerves. I had a great range session, felt good going in, and it was just an out-of-body experience on that hole.”

The Floridian carded an opening nine of 54 which would have broken many players spirit, but to DeArmond’s credit, he not only finished the round but steadied the ship on his back nine with a homeward 37 to finish 19-over par.

While nobody could have blamed him if he packed it in after that torturous hole, walking away was never an option for DeArmond, who gave this great piece of advice to all golfers after his round.

“If you learn anything from me today, it’s don’t withdraw, don’t give up, have fun with it. It’s a game, everybody has a bad day.”

DeArmond starts his second round today at 2.06pm ET. Looking on the bright side; he’s just one place back of multiple major champ Angel Cabrera.

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Morning 9: Rainy Riv (Spieth co-leads) | USGA makes a mockery of amateur status? | 17 on a par 4



By Ben Alberstadt (
  • February 15, 2019
Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Spieth co-leads suspended round 1 at rainy Riviera
Evin Priest of the AAP…”Jordan Spieth chipping in for birdie to take a share of the Genesis Open lead was the highlight of a rain-soaked and incomplete first round in Los Angeles.”
  • “After significant delays due to heavy rain on Thursday, no golfer in the 144-player field was able to complete the first round before US PGA Tour officials called play for the day just after 5.30pm due to darkness.”
  • “…he was joined moments later by South Korea’s Sung Kang.”

Full piece.


2. Mav leads Suncoast (MIKE WEIR 2 strokes back)
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”He chunk-pulled a 3-wood into the water and then flew the green with a wedge to bogey the par-5 16th hole Thursday at Lakewood National in Bradenton, Fla.”
  • “The mistake dropped McNealy back to even par through seven holes. But he remained positive.”
  • “A hole later, he told his caddie, Travis McAllister: “This golf course feels so gettable right now. I feel like I could birdie every hole.”
  • “McNealy just about did. He birdied eight of his last 10 holes and posted a second-nine 29 to shoot 8-under 64 and grab the clubhouse lead at the Tour’s Lecom Suncoast Classic before play was suspended because of darkness.”
3. 17
A club pro, teeing it up in the Suncoast Classic took no fewer than 17 strokes to get the ball in the hole at a par 4.
  • FTW’s Andrew Joseph…”The hole in itself seemed incredibly difficult: A 491-yard par 4 with water and woods on opposite sides.”
  • “It was a struggle as DeArmond hit six shots out of play. “
  • “At least he only needed one putt from the green. You have to look at the bright side.”
  • “I’ve learned nerves are a real thing,” DeArmond said. “I had a great range session, felt good going in, and it was just an out-of-body experience on that hole.”
4. A blow to amateur golf?
Geoff Shackelford penned a quality look at/scathing take on the USGA’s handling of the Lucy Li situation.
A few highlights…
  • “The message from Lucy Li’s case is clear. Take free stuff. Use your skill as a golfer to be a billboard. Just be famous and likable enough and the governing bodies of golf won’t revoke your status.”
  • “In a sad statement about the weakened state of amateur golf, Lucy Li gets to retain her status despite starring in an Apple Watch ad while wearing scripted Nike apparel. Following a six-week investigation, the USGA determined that Li unknowingly violated amateur status rules after an elaborately produced piece was filmed following a call from “a casting agent for an acting assignment to promote Apple Watch.”
  • And this…”The USGA said in a statement that Romo is in the clear because “everyone knows him first as a professional football player and his fame and fortune is not derived from golf.” But he is adding to his fortune on the back of his likeness as a golfer who competes in U.S. Open qualifying as an excellent amateur.”
Shackelford went on to say the the meaning of “amateur status” has been undermined.
5. Boo’s back
Boo Weekley is teeing it up at this week’s Lecom Suncoast Classic on the Tour.
  • Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”The 45-year-old golfer hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since missing the cut at the 2017 RBC Canadian Open. He had surgery on his right elbow later that summer, after a bout with severe tendinitis, and the recovery kept him from hitting a golf ball for almost a year. When he finally was cleared to return to golf, his right shoulder started giving him trouble. The diagnosis?”
  • “I had cancer,” said Weekley, who went under the knife last July to remove the carcinoma and a cyst that had filled with fluid.
  • “The second operation kept him sidelined until late November…”

Full piece.

6. Actions speak louder?
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch says Sergio’s entire body of bad behavior trumps any apology tour.
  • “Twenty years ago at Wentworth in England, Garcia reacted to a lousy shot by ripping off his shoe and flinging it into the gallery. After missing a putt at Doral in 2007, he retrieved his ball then spit into the cup, a snotty gesture of contempt toward the competitors unfortunate enough to be playing behind him.”
  • “Those are but two snowflakes in a blizzard of boorish behavior.”
  • “There’s a club tossed into a lake, fans flipped off, microphones obliterated, his whirling dervish slashing in the bunker the day before his DQ in Saudi -all set to a whiny soundtrack that blames poor results on everyone from Tiger Woods to Carnoustie’s bunker rakers.”

Full piece.


7. Meanwhile, in Perth…
European Tour report…“Panuphol Pittayarat fired an impressive round of 66 to set the clubhouse target early on day two of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.”
  • “The innovative event is making its third appearance in the Race to Dubai, with three rounds of stroke play cutting the field before the top 24 players go head-to-head in six hole knockout match play on Sunday to decide a winner.”
At this writing, Thomas Pieters, Ryan Fox, and Matthew Griffing are tied at the top as well.

Full piece.


8. On Spec
Wanted to alert y’all to our Ryan Barath’s club building and fitting podcast, On Spec. Whether you’re an experienced enthusiast or a mere dabbler, you’ll enjoy the pod.
9. Tiger 17 Gloves
Indicating what we might expect going forward from the partnership, in exclusive video content for GolfTV Tiger Woods talked with Henni Zuel about his approach to playing in the rain.
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19th Hole