Jimmy Walker believes European Tour officials ‘got it wrong’ and should have given Jon Rahm a two-stroke penalty for misplacing his ball during his round.
The Spaniard, who went onto win by six strokes to earn his first European Tour title, was five ahead on the 13th tee when he was told of the infringement that happened on the sixth green.
Replays showed that Rahm marked his ball to the side on a short putt but when he returned to his ball, he placed it in front of the mark.
However, Rahm wasn’t assessed with a two-stroke penalty under a new ruling brought in after the Lexi Thompson debacle at the ANA Inspiration.
European Tour chief referee said Andy McFee said there was only ‘millimetres’ difference between where the ball was initially marked and where it ended up, and that Rahm made a ‘reasonable judgment’ – part of the new Decision 34-3/10.
But Walker, who was watching the action stateside, clearly didn’t agree. He tweeted the following sarcastic message to the European Tour, before interacting with a couple of those who replied to him.
Speaking on Golf Channel, analyst Brandel Chamblee agreed: “The integrity of the competition was certainly at risk, and the dynamic of the competition completely changed from what it should have been to one person's interpretation, and in my opinion, a wrong interpretation of it,” he said.
“Andy McFee certainly has a great reputation administering the rules in a fair manner, but I believe he got this one wrong. It wasn't millimetres. It was inches, probably two, three inches that this ball was misplaced. So, he broke the rule. He should have been penalised, which means he wouldn't have been playing with a five-shot lead. He would have been playing with a three-shot lead.
“All of a sudden, what looks to be something easy and a walk in the park becomes very stressful.”
Speaking after his win, which propelled him to world No.8 just more than a year after turning pro, Rahm explained that he marked his ball to the side due to playing partner Daniel Im’s putt.
“Daniel putted it and it ended up a foot and a half just right of the hole. I hit my putt, ended up on the same exact ball his ball ended up. So his marker was what I was going to mark it.
“So what I did to make it faster, I put it on the side of my ball, knowingly. know it's a little suspicious sometimes but I knowingly did it. I moved my marker so it was not in the way of Daniel's and put it back, and when I replaced my ball I thought it was in the same exact spot what I had picked it up.
“Then Andy came and told me on 13 that they had had a couple of complaints that I had put the ball in a different spot, I had improved my lie or something like that. He didn't think I’d put it on the same exact spot, but he didn't think it was a big enough difference to make a big deal about it, to make anything about it.
“I told him, listen, if it's a penalty stroke, let me know now, I'll accept it. He told me there's been a change in the rules. There's some margins left on the rule now and it was left to interpretation. And that was the decision.”