The American stepped into his ball after a swipe in the rough at Marco Simone. Should he have been given a penalty? Our Rules of Golf expert has the answer for you
It was the culmination of a miserable start to the morning for Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.
Facing a historic 6.5-1.5 deficit as they began their second day Ryder Cup foursomes, the US pair were put to the sword in the early part of their match against Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood.
Then the controversy began. Absolutely buried in the rough on the left of the 6th at Marco Simone, the American duo first tried to get relief for an embedded ball. Given short shrift by the rules officials, Thomas had to take a swipe at it.
As it came out, and he struggled to regain his balance, Thomas’s foot made contact with the ball.
In Justin Thomas’ defence – his first words to the referee are “it hit me too”. Watch his right foot as he strikes the ball. Poor officiating if he’s not been penalised for it. #RyderCup #RyderCup2023 #justinthomas pic.twitter.com/A4ZLOe6FuV
— CiaránMcP (@ciaranmcp) September 30, 2023
With the TV commentators initially a little uncertain, some of you wondered whether the US team should have incurred a penalty.
But it was all OK in the Rules of Golf, and this is why. It’s laid out in Rule 11.1a. If a player’s ball in motion accidentally hits any person – including the player – there is no penalty.
“This is true,” the rule says, “even if the ball hits the player, the opponent, or any other player or any of their caddies or equipment”.
We can see the ball’s still moving and I don’t think there is anyone who would seriously suggest that Thomas was deliberately striking the ball with his foot.
So – as far as the Rules are concerned – it’s simply keep calm and carry on. Play it as it lies.
Has this happened before the Rules of Golf changed in 2019, Thomas would have picked up a one-stroke penalty (it was the old Rule 19-2), but, thankfully for all of us club golfers in particular, the laws are a bit more lenient these days.
Justin Thomas kicked ball penalty: Now have your say
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