LA QUINTA, Calif. – Rory McIlroy’s two-shot rules gaffe in the third round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship eventually cost the Ulsterman the title Sunday, losing by a shot to Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.
The unusual nature of what happened in the desert – veteran caddie Dave Renwick, while working for Ricardo Gonzalez, calling a rules violation on McIlroy after the round – resonated with players and caddies at the PGA Tour’s Humana Challenge. Many ultimately wondered whether the caddie should have been involved in the issue at all.
Renwick witnessed McIlroy taking relief from a spectator’s walkway on the second hole, but after his drop, McIlroy’s left foot was still in the walkway, thus not taking full relief under Rule 25-1 (“Abnormal Ground Conditions”). Renwick approached the two-time major winner after he putted out on the 18th hole and told him what he saw.
“If I would have saw him do something wrong, I would have said it immediately, or at least told my player,” veteran caddie Brian Smith said. “I try to stay out of all that stuff. Let the officials deal with that. Let the players deal with that.”
A 22-year veteran, Smith caddies for Harris English and has worked for Justin Leonard, Sean O’Hair and Brad Faxon as well.
Smith is old-school like Renwick but believes a caddie should be involved with his own player – only getting involved with the other player in limited circumstances.
“I wouldn’t say it was right for Dave to say it when he said it,” Smith said. “I would have no problem with him saying it at that moment or bringing it to their attention, at least.”
According to reports out of Abu Dhabi, Renwick was 30 yards away from the drop and couldn’t shout quickly enough before McIlroy hit his shot.
Presuming those reports are accurate, should Renwick have gotten involved after the fact?
Jay Haas Jr. has played professional golf and is a caddie for his brother Bill. Haas Jr. agrees that Renwick has the right to say something at the time of the incident to try and stop a violation – or at the very least tell his player so he can step in.
“I wouldn’t wait until the 18th hole, and if I waited until the 18th hole, I don’t know that I would say anything at that point,” Haas Jr. said.
Damon Green, who caddies for Zach Johnson, has played professionally off and on, including on the Champions Tour. Like Smith, Green is a veteran caddie and was on Scott Hoch’s bag for many years.
“I’d have to tell my player probably and let him deal with it right at the moment,” Green said. “I don’t think it’s our job to get involved in the rules, really.”
Green’s position as a player is similar; he would want the caddie to come to him and not his playing competitor.
“I’d be upset with him,” Green said. “But is it worth a firing offense or anything? I don’t think so, unless you spelled it out beforehand. That’s a very weird situation.”
Jerry Kelly thinks that Renwick’s longevity gives him the right to step in and say whether a drop had been improper, but he wonders about the timing.
“Waiting until the 18th really sucks,” Kelly said. “But if you see something, you say it then or maybe you don’t say it – if you don’t have the (guts) to say it right away and help the person out, then it’s – it’s almost more detrimental. I don’t know. But Davey thought he was doing the right thing by saying something; just said it at the wrong time.”