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Spieth Thomas Ryder Cup

‘It hit me too’: Why Justin Thomas didn’t get a penalty after Ryder Cup rules controversy

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.

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

What do you think of this Justin Thomas kicked ball penalty situation? Did the Rules of Golf get this one right? Let me know with a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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