Tour boss Pelley admits Haotong Li penalty was 'grossly unfair'

Tour boss Pelley admits Haotong Li penalty was 'grossly unfair'

European Tour chief Keith Pelley has admitted that the controversial two-stroke penalty imposed on China's Haotong Li at the Dubai Desert Classic was "grossly unfair".

However, despite widespread criticism from tour pros on the sanction, Pelley says that under the strict wording of Rule 10.2b (4), the decision made by Tour referees on Sunday was correct.

"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," he added.

Picture: Sky Sports
Picture: Sky Sports

Li (23) was penalised two shots on the 72nd hole in Dubai for breaking one of the new rules of golf, but many weren't happy with the interpretation.

He was playing in the final group and was lining up his short birdie putt, while his caddie stood behind him.

When Li was about to take up his stance the caddie, Mike Burrow, moved away, and he rolled in the putt to finish in a share of third place with a final round 71.

The European Tour deemed him in breach of the new ruling which prevents caddies from helping their players with alignment.

The penalty left him in a tie for 12th at 14-under instead of third at 16-under, costing him nearly $100,000, and saw many call out the rules afterwards.

The two-shot penalty ruling on Haotong Li at the Dubai Desert Classic has been labelled "ridiculous", a "disgrace" and "shockingly bad" by fellow Tour pros on the European Tour.

And Pelley admitted Monday: "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.

"In an era where we are striving to improve all aspects of golf, we need to be careful and find the proper balance between maintaining the integrity of the game and promoting its global appeal.

"I have spoken personally to R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers to voice my opposition to the fact there is no discretion available to our referees in relation to this ruling, and I will be making additional representation to the R&A in the near future to discuss the matter further."

Rule 10.2b (4) relates to restrictions on a caddie standing behind player.

The player’s caddie must not stand behind the player for any reason when a player begins taking a stance.

Haotong could have avoided the penalty if he had backed off the stroke and retaken his stance. He did not, hence a two-stroke penalty applied to his score on 18.

Video of the incident shows what has been deemed a "harsh" and "marginal" ruling, and has seen tour colleague like Pablo Larrazabal asking for the new rules to be looked at as many claim Burrow wasn't trying to align him.

Matt Wallace called it 'ridiculous', Ross Fisher deemed it 'a disgrace', Eddie Pepperell felt it was "shockingly bad", and others called out the fact that slow play seems to still be allowed to escape the rules.

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinely called the sanction ridiculously marginal, and David Howell soon responded by calling it "utterly ridiculous".

Eddie Pepperell dubbed it a "shockingly bad" decision while Graeme McDowell called it "awfully harsh".

Allianz League Review Podcast: Kilkenny's strength without their spine, Kerry hit all the right notes

More on this topic

McIlroy dominates in the desert

Gallacher defends Dubai title as McIlroy fadesGallacher defends Dubai title as McIlroy fades

McIlroy still in the mix as Dubai leaderboard gets crowded

McIlroy moves ahead in Dubai

More in this Section

Walsh and Smullen the stars of HRI awardsWalsh and Smullen the stars of HRI awards

Duignan becomes new Faithfuls chairDuignan becomes new Faithfuls chair

Kerr hails response  to hotel tragedyKerr hails response to hotel tragedy

Inter crash out after defeat to BarcaInter crash out after defeat to Barca


Lizzo, Demi Lovato and Ashley Graham are among those prompting us to practise a little more self-love.5 times celebrities reminded us to be body positive in 2019

Wondering about wine for the big day? Leslie Williams has all the options, for every taste and budget.Something from the bar: The perfect drink selections this Christmas

Damon Smith faces the might of the First Order on the exhilarating Star Wars Rise Of The Resistance attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando.Feeling the Force in Florida: Star Wars Rise Of The Resistance attraction opens at Walt Disney World

There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book over the Christmas holidays, says Kya deLongchamps.By the book: Our top home and interiors picks to curl up with over the festive season

More From The Irish Examiner