Euro Tour chief: Penalty on Haotong Li is 'grossly unfair' under new Rules of Golf

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 27: Haotong Li of China takes his tee shot on hole one during Day Four of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 27, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) David Cannon/Getty Images

Euro Tour chief: Penalty on Haotong Li is 'grossly unfair' under new Rules of Golf

Euro Tour

Euro Tour chief: Penalty on Haotong Li is 'grossly unfair' under new Rules of Golf

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European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has called on R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers to allow referees more discretion following Haotong Li’s controversial two-shot penalty in the final round of the $3.25 million Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Li’s caddie Mike Burrow was adjudged to have breached Rule 10.2b (4) on the 18th green, which prohibits caddies from lining players up. Li’s birdie on the 18th Sunday became a bogey six, and his score was changed to 73 instead of 71. It cost the Chinese player $98,000 when he dropped from a share of third place into a tie for 12th.

“Let me state initially that, under the new Rules of Golf issued on January 1, 2019, the decision made by our referees was correct, under the strict wording of the rules,” Pelley said in the statement Monday. “It is my strong belief, however, that the fact there is no discretion available to our referees when implementing rulings such as this is wrong and should be addressed immediately.

“Everyone I have spoken to about this believes, as I do, that there was no malice or intent from Li Haotong, nor did he gain any advantage from his, or his caddie’s split-second actions. Therefore the subsequent two shot penalty, which moved him from T3 in the tournament to T12, was grossly unfair in my opinion.”

Slumbers said after reviewing the ruling, he stands by the European Tour referees that the correct call was made.

“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,” Slumbers said in a statement released Monday. “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.”

As a video of Li’s putt on 18 was shared on social media, many came out in support of the player.

David Howell, who is chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee, tweeted it was “utterly ridiculous. 5 years to change the rules so that the game doesn’t look daft and then this happens 2nd week out, in my opinion this needs looking at right away. Crazy rule, some common sense is needed here.”

Eddie Pepperell tweeted he found it hard to believe Li was penalized. “Frankly, I think it’s a shockingly bad decision and for the life of me I cannot see how Mike has lined Haotong up here,” Pepperell wrote.

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