LPGA, Amy Olson respond to backstopping backlash

February 23, 2019

Earlier this week, LPGA players Amy Olson and current World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn ignited a firestorm of controversy when video emerged of what appears to be a complicit incident of backstopping at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

A quick recap: Duncan French tweeted a video of Jutanugarn chipping from off the green. She hits a good shot to tap-in range. After Jutanugarn takes her putter from her caddie, she moves to mark her ball, but quickly stops, as Olson appears to be ready to play her shot. Olson’s chip then hits Jutanugarn’s ball and settles just a couple of feet from the hole. She smiles and bows to Jutanugarn, and the two share a fist bump on their way to the green.

Backstopping — the illegal practice of refraining from marking one’s ball on the green in an attempt to provide a “backstop” for another player (inadvertently or not) — became a hot-button Tour topic when Jimmy Walker revealed on Twitter that “If you like the guy you might leave [the ball unmarked] to help on a shot.”

According to Rule 15.3a, “If two or more players agree to leave a ball in place to help any player, and that player then makes a stroke with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).”

On Friday evening, the LPGA issued a statement exonerating Olson and Jutanugarn of any breach of Rule 15.3a.

“Olson quickly played strictly to maintain pace of play, with her ball accidentally striking Jutanugarn’s,” the statement said.

Golfweek reached out to Olson before her third-round tee time, and she explained her side of the story.

“We had waited on 18th tee, for 10 minutes in 18th fairway and Michelle [Wie] was waiting for a ruling,” Olson said. “To help pace of play, Ariya and I went before Michelle even though she was out. Ariya’s ball was not in my intended line and to help move things along, I told her it was fine. I had never even heard of the back-stopping issue as I don’t really watch PGA golf that much and it hasn’t been an issue on the LPGA. My intention was to help pace of play. Obviously with everything that has gone down I think we all (especially me) will be more conscious of it and I will have EVERYONE mark anything remotely close to the hole now.”