Jon Rahm avoids penalty for mis-marking ball at Irish Open | Alistair Tait for Golf Week
We’re talking about the difference between the ball being lifted at 10 o’clock on the ball marker and put back at 11 o’clock, which is not a problem. Secondly, we’re talking about a player moving his ball marker off to the side to get out of the way of his fellow competitor and then moving it back again. Now there’s always going to be a small margin of error in this. - European Tour chief referee Andy McFee
Put simply, Joh Rahm got away with one today at the Irish Open. Yes, the recent Decision 34-3/10 was used to rule that Rahm made a reasonable human effort to replace his ball accurately. However, this looks like more than a lack of accuracy. What it does look like is that Rahm forgot that he had originally marked his ball to the side prior to moving his marker one putter-head length further from his opponents line. When he moved the marker back and then replaced his ball directly in front of the marker that was more than him failing to be reasonably accurate. He put it back in the wrong place.
It's easily argued that marking the ball an inch one way or the other isn't that big of a deal. You can also argue that the stress that Rahm was under chasing down the committee's ruling was a penalty of sorts in itself. It's also clear that the hangover following the Lexi Thompson ruling during this year's LPGA ANA Inspiration tournament was a factor. What is inarguable is that the rules surrounding the "reasonable" replacing of a ball on the green following being marked are there for a reason. Rahm was incorrectly given the benefit of the doubt today.
I applaud most of the proposed rule changes set to go into effect in 2019. However, as more rules of golf are liberalized to include "intent" and "reasonable" a new problem is being created. Who can really every rule on those things but the players themselves? When a rule is black-and-white and enforced consistently throughout the game, it may seem unfair or unfortunate at times. What it doesn't do is leave anyone with any doubt surrounding the ethics of the player. Tonight Jon Rahm is facing those very questions.
I do not believe that Jon Rahm intentionally cheated today. What I do believe is that he made a mistake. He asked if there was a penalty for that mistake. When told that if he believed he made the mistake without intent that there would be no penalty he agreed. True? Only he really knows.
He didn't intentionally cheat. He accidentally cheated. The rules of golf now allow for that. A slippery slope indeed.