Wednesday 23 October 2019

PGA Tour chief writes to players as new rules continue to cause controversy

Justin Thomas. Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Thomas. Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Casey

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has waded into the ongoing rift between players and the game's governing bodies over golf's new rules.

After another week of controversy at the Honda Classic, Monahan has written a memo to players on the PGA Tour, Tour and Champions Tour, reminding them that they had their chance to affect the rules during the consultation process.

Monahan also defends the Tour's rules officials as "the best in the game", but also encouraged players to "use your voice constructively during this process".

The R&A and USGA have already revised a rule which was only introduced in January after incidents on either side of the Atlantic, with China's Li Haotong penalised two shots on the 72nd hole of the Dubai Desert Classic because his caddie was on a direct line behind the ball when he began to take his stance.

Five days later American Denny McCarthy was penalised for the same offence in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and although that was swiftly rescinded after an outcry from fellow professionals, Adam Schenk fell foul of the same rule last week.

That prompted Justin Thomas to become embroiled in an extraordinary exchange on social media with the USGA, whose PR account claimed Thomas had "cancelled every meeting we've planned with you" and pointed out that the PGA Tour had been involved with the planning of the changes for seven years.

That point was acknowledged by Monahan in the memo, which was first reported by the Golf Channel.

Monahan wrote: "This is a collaborative process, one the PGA Tour has been part of from the beginning, along with all organisations in the world of golf.

"During this process, we put forward a lengthy list of recommendations to improve the rules in many ways, including the removal of numerous penalties, and virtually all our suggestions were incorporated.

"We also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rules prior to implementation, which resulted in modifications for the final version. The R&A and the USGA are our industry partners and we have pledged to work together through the introduction of these changes and provide feedback every step of the way.

"We have already achieved positive outcomes this year - most notably the clarification of the caddie-alignment rule - while we continue to focus on the remaining issues that are causing debate and discussion. None of this is unexpected.

"Our rules officials are the best in the game and are also providing constant feedback to the R&A and USGA as they work through implementing these rules during competition.

"We are committed to playing under these rules as we analyse their effectiveness throughout the entire season and it's important to acknowledge that we are not at the finish line yet.

"You will continue to have an avenue to voice your questions and concerns, either through our team, the player advisory council or directly to USGA representatives as they continue to be on-site during our events to gather feedback."

USGA executive director Mike Davis claimed last month that "by and large" the rules have been "a huge success", although R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers admitted "it hasn't gone as smoothly as I would have liked."

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