It’s all go for January after the R&A and USGA published their finalised Rules of Golf. So what’s coming in? Steve Carroll outlines the changes.
Rules row caddie acted in ‘good faith’
The caddie who shed light on Rory McIlroy’s crucial rules infringement in the third round of the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi taped a note to the Northern Irishman’s locker to explain the “good faith” of his actions on Sunday.
Dave Renwick was caddying for Ricardo González, one of Rory’s playing partners, when he spotted the infamous infringement on the 2nd hole during Saturday’s game. It is said that McIlroy took a drop from a spectator walkway but had one foot still standing on that area when he played his next shot; this is not permitted under the rules of golf.
Renwick did not say anything to McIlroy at the time of the infringement, instead waiting until after his group had putted out of the 18th before informing him of his concerns, so as to not disrupt the two-time major winners round and momentum.
Shortly after this there was a review with tournament referee John Paramor, who then penalised a furious McIlroy two strokes and a third round 68 crumbled into a 70.
Renwick was quick to explain his reasons behind telling officials of McIlroy’s illegal move, saying: "I couldn't have gone to sleep knowing that I hadn't said anything. I put a letter, a nice short one, on his locker saying that I'm sure he would appreciate what I did was in good faith."
And credit to McIlroy, who did sympathise with the caddie’s unenviable situation. He said: "You have to adhere to the rules of this game and he was pointing out something he thought was questionable. He was just doing what I guess anyone would."
The decision, however, subsequently cost McIlroy the victory by a single shot, with Pablo Larrazábal walking away the winner.
Renwick added: "It was pleasing to hear that Rory had said there was no animosity as we've all got to adhere to the rules out here, after all."
Renwick is one of the more experienced caddies on tour, having previously worked for José María Olazábal, Vijay Singh and Steve Elkington. He also worked with Lee Westwood for a while.
Renwick went on: "If I hadn't said anything and Rory had won the tournament by a shot, that wouldn't have been right and I couldn't have lived with myself. I feel I did the right thing and if I could have stopped him before he hit the shot I would have. But I was fully 40 yards away at the time.
"We'd just played our third shot and Rory was over the ball. I was looking over and thought: 'I'm sure his foot is inside the white line.' I said to Ricardo as we walked to the next tee: 'I'm sure he was standing on the walkway, not by much but enough.'"
Despite Renwick feeling he did the right thing and McIlroy backing him up in his assessment, there have been criticisms by a caddie in the USA who feels the Scotsman’s actions was wrong.
Brian Smith, a highly-experienced and well-respected caddie himself, said he would have adopted a different stance had he been witness to the rules breach. He said: "If I saw him do something wrong, I would have said it immediately; or at least told my player. I try to stay out of all that stuff. Let the officials deal with that. Let the players deal with that.
"I wouldn't say it was right for Dave to say it when he said it. I would have no problem with him saying it at that moment or bringing it to their attention, at least."
Such rules controversies are becoming more frequent and there are grumbles from both players and fans of the sport that something should be done about it before the game become’s untenable. However, the rules are clear, and those who adhere to them are the ones more likely to add to their trophy cabinets this season.