Bad judgement, bad rule and new Bones
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
At the Irish Open, which Jon Rahm won by six shots, he caused a rules controversy when it appeared he didn’t replace his ball correctly after marking it on the putting green. Brandel Chamblee claimed he gained 3-4 inches on the error while others suggested it was less but still a rules infraction. The R&A let Rahm off the hook, even though he could have easily confessed to the infraction after reviewing it on video, taken the two stroke penalty and still won the tournament. Did the R&A blow the call? Or should Rahm have done the “right thing” and called a penalty on himself?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): One of the best things about golf is the fact that players — and in particular, professionals in the public eye, who depend on their scores to make a living — call penalties on themselves if they believe they have broken the rules. Sure, it’s not 100%, but it’s often enough that it makes our game the most honourable of all. Therefore, Jon Rahm should have called a penalty on himself, or at the very least, should have accepted the penalty after reviewing the video. Shame on Rahm. But more particularly, this’ll be hanging over him for years… whereas acceptance would’ve meant that no one would be talking about it the morning after.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): It was difficult to tell if he replaced his ball on the exact same spot because his hand was in front of his marker when he picked it up (the camera angle was blocked by his hand, so he could have been replacing the ball to the side). It didn’t “look” like he placed the ball to the side of the mark but in looking at the video, it was NOT 4 inches different, so Chamblee is completely wrong there. Only one man knows for sure and that would be Rahm himself.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think it was more like 1-2 inches … however, there is no doubt that Rahm replaced his ball on the incorrect side of his marker and had a shorter putt as a result. Not much shorter, mind you — but shorter nonetheless! In my opinion, the R&A should have absolutely administered the Spaniard a penalty, but fortunately, that ended up being a moot issue because Rahm ran away with the event anyway.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Geez, when will these rules infractions stop being the main discussion point after a tournament? How can professional golfers not mark their balls properly? It’s insane in my mind. Why didn’t he just tap it in? It was a two foot putt. I hate that pros have to mark everything outside of four inches. Anyway, venting aside, he certainly should have called the penalty on himself, especially since he still would have won by four shots. It was clearly mis-marked although it definitely wasn’t 3-4 inches, but still was an infraction. Anyway, good thing it didn’t matter in the end result, but geez I wish these rules infractions would disappear. It’s hurting the game!
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m not sure how this one differs from the Lexi Thompson situation. Both players clearly didn’t replace the ball back where it was originally. That’s a penalty. The Rules guys knew it, Rahm knew it and it doesn’t matter what his thought process was or whether he used “proper judgement”. I know the Rules guys are trying very hard to not become part of the competition but they blew this one.
After Bernhard Langer won his most recent Senior major, there were rumblings that his un-anchored putting stroke maybe wasn’t quite so un-anchored. After the governing bodies banned the anchored stroke to start the 2016 season, a lot of players like Langer and Scott McCarron found a work around that appears to be legal but is hard to know for sure. Does this rule need further fixing and if so, what should the USGA do?
Deeks: I don’t believe the rule should have been enacted in the first place, but since it was, I suppose the only way to prevent anchoring is to restrict the length of the putter shaft… perhaps no higher than the belt buckle. I doubt that this would encourage Langer or McCarron to wear pants above their nipples.
Loughry: Maybe the definition of a stroke just needs to be a little more clear. So that players and officials can administer it with confidence. Right now, with it still being relatively new, there seems to be some confusion over what is and is not anchored.
Kaplan: I have never really bought into the notion that anchoring actually makes putting any easier, but if a rule clarification must be made why not just ban all extended putters that exceed 37/38 inches? Surely, that would eliminate any lingering grey areas.
Rule: Based on the video evidence, it sure seemed like Bernhard forgot to release his top hand from his chest after his practice stroke, and I’m surprised he didn’t get penalized, but it isn’t entirely clear I suppose. They have found work arounds but I don’t think those work arounds are as much of an advantage as the anchored stroke. I don’t think anything has to change other than policing those who are close to anchoring.
Mumford: This is a terrible situation. No player wants to be in a situation where others think he may be cheating. And to my knowledge nobody is actually saying that anybody is cheating, just that they could be. It’s not fair to the player and not fair to the integrity of the competition. This was another bad rule from the get-go. If they want to eliminate anchoring and any possibility that someone might be anchoring, then they need to restrict the length of the putter to no longer than a sand wedge. That would force everybody to make a real golf stroke, which also would be fine with me.
Phil Mickelson’s former caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay will appear on TV as an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel at Royal Birkdale next week during the broadcast of the Open Championship and on additional tournaments in 2018. How do you think this audition will turn out? Is Bones a long term TV analyst or anxious to be back on the bag?
Deeks: Let’s wait and see how he does. It could be a brilliant move, because I’m sure a great caddy could give really worthwhile insight into what the player-caddy team are thinking and saying to each other. But being a TV analyst is not an easy job, despite what most people might think. He/she has to be articulate, interesting, insightful, witty, creative with words, fair, mindful of the audience’s lack of insider jargon, not verbose, able to talk with a director nattering in one ear, and know when to shut up.
Loughry: Bones will bring more insight than what is being provided currently. As long as he likes it, he’ll stick with it, because his body is breaking down and he’s reaching an age he should be thinking about something else (so he doesn’t end up crippled in his old age). I think he’s ready to let the caddie gig go.
Kaplan: Bones is going to be a great addition to the NBC/Golf Channel broadcast crews. Not only will he add a ton of first-hand experience and insight to the broadcasts, but you just know that he’s got plenty of excellent behind-the-scenes stories about the best players in the world after working in such close proximity to them for so long. That being said, I don’t think that Bones is done caddying forever. He will probably pick the bib back up for certain players on special occasions, but I think that we should get used to seeing the Englishman in this new role because he is going to be very good at it!
Rule: I can’t say I’ve heard enough of Bones talking to know if he’ll succeed as an analyst. He should have some good insight into the players’ mindset and thought process in playing a course, which is a good angle I think. I’m sure he’ll be itching to get back on a bag at some point but in the meantime, why not try something new?
Mumford: The best thing Bones has going for him is that he’s a fresh voice. And don’t we need that! However, Bones may be the greatest story teller in the world in the locker room but unless he’s prepared to do the same on TV in front of players and other caddies, then he’s of no use as a TV analyst. We already have too many talking heads that are too cozy with the players and never tell us anything. Being an analyst means offering critiques when warranted, not just being cheerleaders. Johnny Miller doesn’t mind ruffling some feathers and even Nick Faldo will occasionally tell it like it is. Their success is partly due to the fact that they’re not trying to keep one foot in the broadcast booth and one foot on Tour. I can’t imagine Bones being a good analyst until he’s ready to hang up his caddie bib permanently.