R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers responds to Pelley on Li ruling


R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers has responded to the statement put out by the European Tour’s Keith Pelley following backlash over a ruling involving Hoatong Li at the Dubai Desert Classic

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, has responded to European Tour CEO Keith Pelley’s statement about the ruling that cost Haotong Li a two-shot penalty on the 72nd hole in Dubai. 

Li was assessed as having breached rule 10.2b(4), which states that the player’s caddie must not stand behind the player for any reason when a player begins taking a stance. Li and his caddie lined up his ball, and then his caddie walked away as Li was taking his stance. It was marginal, but it was enough for him to be assessed two penalty shots which dropped from 3rd to 12th in the final tournament standings.  

Haotong Li timeline

WATCH incident as tour pros brand Li ruling ‘ludicrous’ and a ‘disgrace’
> Pelley issues statement over Haotong Li ruling

It caused uproar on social media as Tour professionals called the rule ‘harsh’, ‘ludicrous’ and ‘ridiculous’, protesting Li’s innocence over the ‘marginal’ overlap of caddie walking away as Li began to take his stance, clearly not wanting to help align his player. 

Pelley then issued a statement deeming the ruling ‘grossly unfair’, and called for referees to be allowed to use their discretion. But Slumbers clarified that not only was the ruling correct, that disrection in rules has been deliberately avoided to make the rules clearer to understand. 

“We have reviewed the Li Haotong ruling made by the European Tour referees and agree that it was correct,” Slumbers said.

“There has been some misunderstanding of the new Rule and I would point out that it is designed to prevent any opportunity for the caddie to stand behind the player as he begins to take his stance. Whether the player intends to be lined up is not the issue.

“We appreciate that it was a very unfortunate situation yesterday and I completely understand Keith Pelley’s concerns when a Rules incident occurs at such a key stage of a European Tour event but there is no discretionary element to the Rule precisely so that it is easier to understand and can be applied consistently.

“We are continuing to monitor the impact of the new Rules but I made it clear to Keith that our focus is very much on maintaining the integrity of the Rules for all golfers worldwide.”

It’s worth noting though that unsurprisingly the issues of this ruling brought about more controversy surrounding another rule: slow play.

Many felt that Bryson DeChambeau was continuously over the reccommended 40seconds players are suppose to use, but wasn’t penalised, therefore highlighting that referees are only implimenting some rules and not others. It’s an issue that isn’t set to go away any time soon, but for now, the Haotong Li saga looks to be over. 

The Rule Explained: 

10.2b(4) – Restriction on caddie standing behind player – explanation

Li Haotong’s caddie was on a direct line behind the ball when he began to take his stance on the 18th green. The player’s caddie must not stand behind the player for any reason when a player begins taking a stance. Haotong could have avoided the penalty if he had backed off the stroke and retaken his stance. He did not, hence a two-stroke penalty applied to his score on 18. 

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