Haotong Li Rule Change Penalty

USGA Rule Change Cost Haotong Li a $100,000 Dollars

Justin B. Players, Pro Tour News Leave a Comment

One of the biggest changes to the world of golf this year is the rule changes that have taken place. The changes made by the official Rules of Golf were intended to speed up play and make things more exciting on the course but that backfired for one player this week.

I wrote about the rule change that seems to have affected the LPGA TOUR immensely, and that is the change that doesn’t allow caddies to stand behind their players to help them line up. While seldom used on the men’s side of things, it sometimes gets a little tricky when players are on the green and caddies are reading the line. That situation is what hurt Haotong Li this weekend.

Li was having a good week at the Dubai Desert Classic this weekend and was looking to cap it off on the 18th hole with a birdie putt that would put him at a third-place finish. Well, Li sank the putt and celebrated until later in the day the European Tour officials came out and said Li violated this rule because his caddie was behind him for the birdie putt. That resulted in a two-stroke penalty that landed Li T-12th instead of third place, equivalent to a loss of $100k.

Li is a fantastic golfer, having already earned $8 million in career earnings and is looking like the first-star golfer to come out of China so the loss in cash isn’t too big of a deal for him. The point is, however, that this seems to be a violation that had no effect on the putt and one in which might not have been a violation at all because the caddie wasn’t even completely behind Li.

There should obviously be some flexibility with the rule, and the European Tour even said as much in their statement after the call. ‘Let me state initially that, under the new Rules of Golf issued on January 1, 2019, the decision made by our referees was correct, under the strict wording of the rules,” they said. “It is my strong belief, however, that the fact there is no discretion available to our referees when implementing rulings such as this is wrong and should be addressed immediately.”

Overall, it appears that the new rule changes are a net positive for the game of golf but as this example illustrates, there may still be some tweaks that need to be worked out. Hopefully, something like this doesn’t affect any other players in contention at other tournaments the rest of the year.

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