Another backstopping incident has emerged on the PGA Tour, and Frank Nobilo and his fellow Golf Channel announcers took notice.
Matt Kuchar was playing from the greenside bunker on the 9th hole during the final round of the Sony Open on Sunday when Nobilo, Steve Sands and Jim “Bones” Mackay started discussing the controversial practice on the Golf Channel broadcast.
One of Kuchar’s playing partners, Andrew Putnam, had left his ball just a couple of inches from the flag and didn’t put a mark down. Backstopping on Tour is when a player, directly or indirectly, fails to mark a ball near the hole and another player hits it. Kuchar would have received an advantage had he hit Putnam’s ball and it slowed Kuchar’s down or stopped it completely, because Kuchar would play it from where it lies. It wouldn’t harm Putnam, either, because if that were to happen he would be able to move his ball back to where it was for no penalty.
To be clear, Putnam held a one-shot lead at the turn over Kuchar, so there’s no reason for him to want to help Kuchar out. In this case Kuchar could have played quickly or Putnam was just a little slow to get to his ball.
Still, Mackay, the on-course reporter for the final group, pointed out how he was surprised Putnam didn’t mark.
Sands asked Nobilo why Putnam may have elected not to mark.
“You ask any other generation and it’s something that we have chatted about over the years: to provide a backstop, especially at this key moment,” Nobilo said. “[Putnam] had the option to run up there and tap it in, do whatever you want. Remember the rules changed, you are allowed to putt with the flag in — do not leave it there.”
“It’s going to cost someone,” Nobilo said. “Can you image if Matt’s bunker shot is going fast and actually hits the ball and goes in?”
The backstopping controversy took on new life in July when Jimmy Walker said “if you like the guy you might leave [your ball] to help on a shot.”