Jimmy Walker on 'backstopping' on Tour: 'If you like the guy you might leave [your ball] to help on a shot'

Jimmy Walker on ‘backstopping’ on Tour: ‘If you like the guy you might leave [your ball] to help on a shot’

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Jimmy Walker shot a bogey-free 62 on Friday to grab a one-shot lead.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The subject of backstopping has surfaced on social media yet again, and this time six-time PGA Tour winner Jimmy Walker shed some light on how pros view the controversial practice.

Walker wrote on Twitter that the decision as to whether a player will mark his ball can come down to how much that player likes (or dislikes) the other players in his group. 

If you like the guy you might leave it to help on a shot,” he said.  

The act of “backstopping” is when players (consciously or not) don’t mark their balls on the green, especially when their balls are close to the hole. This action (or inaction) gives other players in the group a small advantage should their balls strike the unmarked ball. Should the balls collide, the player who hit the resting ball plays from where his or her ball ended up, while the player who didn’t mark gets to replace his or her ball to its original location without a penalty.

Here’s one example, with Tony Finau playing from the bunker earlier this season, where backstopping — whether intentiaonl or not — helped Finau. (Sometimes players won’t mark to keep play moving. If one player is ready to hit from around the green, he or she may not wait for the player to mark. Still, some argue that players should always mark to protect the field.)

On Saturday, Walker responded to a different video where backstopping was in question.

“Usually a guy will ask if he would like to mark it,” he said. “If you don’t like a guy you will mark anyway. If you like the guy you might leave it to help on a shot. Some guys don’t want to give help at all and rush to mark their ball. To each his own.”

Former pro and course designer Michael Clayton replied, saying, “So you decide who is worthy of your help and who isn’t?”

“I try to help everyone,” Walker said. “Especially if they got a bad break or got short sided. I’ve asked ‘do you want me to leave the ball?’”

Backstopping is covered in the Rules of Golf. According to Rule 22-1, Ball Assisting Play, “in stroke play, if the Committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitor, they are disqualified.”

Some other pros, like Luke Donald, chimed in on Twitter as well.

You can check out the entire backstopping discussion on this thread here.