New year, same backstopping controversy — at least on social media.
In case you need a refresher, backstopping is the illegal practice of refraining from marking one’s ball on the green in an attempt to provide a “backstop” for another player (inadvertently or not). According to Rule 15.3a, “If two or more players agree to leave a ball in place to help any player, and that player then makes a stroke with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).”
During the second round of The American Express, Russell Knox hit a fantastic bunker shot from the diabolically deep (19-feet!) pit on the Stadium course’s par-5 16th hole.
Everything was all well and good, until a close listen to the clip reveals Knox’s playing partner, Kevin Na, yell “Hit my ball!” as Knox’s ball rolls past.
Though Knox’s ball did not hit Na’s, the situation reignited discussion of an issue that had gone relatively quiet in recent months after exploding in June of 2018, when Jimmy Walker revealed on Twitter that “If you like the guy you might leave [the ball unmarked] to help on a shot.”
It was a situation reminiscent of the LPGA’s Ariya Jutanugarn and Amy Olson fist-bumping after Jutanugarn opted not to mark her ball on the green and Olson’s chip collided with Jutanugarn’s ball. Under the Rules of Golf, Jutanugarn is allowed to replace her ball in its original position and Olson’s ball is played as it lies — closer to the hole than it would have been, thanks to the collision. Neither player was penalized by the LPGA then, and the potential for penalty wasn’t even broached with Knox and Na, though Twitter observers were not happy.