The rules of golf were tweaked heading into 2019, which is why we now see pros putting with the pin in, among other things.

One of those other things: caddies aren’t allowed to line players up, which means they’re not allowed to stand behind a player at address who doesn’t step away or reset his pre-shot routine in some way. This is generally an admirable goal; caddies shouldn’t be lining up professional players. Perhaps more than any other group of athletes golfers hate change, so this had led to a few moments of confusion and some assessed penalties. (And an early tweak to the rule after a player was penalized for stepping away after his caddy had been behind him.)

This weekend, controversy erupted when Adam Schenk was assessed a penalty under the rule.

Justin Thomas, one of the more popular young stars of golf, took to Twitter to mock the USGA over the rule (instead of the PGA Tour for issuing the ruling):

When some people on Twitter pointed out that perhaps Thomas and other pros should consider following the rules, Thomas replied that he wasn’t excusing anyone breaking rules, but instead thought the rules themselves were bad:

The USGA is a common punching bag for pros, though that’s normally more of a factor around the U.S. Open, which players hate for being challenging to the limits of fairness. (Professional golfers long ago abandoned the idea that they’re not entitled to a birdie opportunity on every hole.) The PGA Tour, meanwhile, is essentially run by the players, which is why Thomas took a shot at the USGA and not his own tour, which issued the penalty to begin with. The USGA (or at least the person manning the USGA’s public relations Twitter feed) took exception, though, and called Thomas out:

This was a shock, because the conversation has been so one-sided for years. Predictably, players reacted poorly. Thomas said the tweet “hurt” him, while also disputing its accuracy. The USGA apparently agreed, as it admitted that parts of their initial tweet were incorrect:

Thomas retweeted that tweet, and the whole thing just came across as a big mess.

The whole thing ended up making everyone look bad. Thomas (and fellow players who jumped in) come across as whining; you might not like the rules, but it’s not like it’s a secret at this point. If a rule changes, you have to abide by it. The USGA, meanwhile, couldn’t have backed down faster, and in the end it feels more like a rogue tweet than an organizational shift to combat the narrative players push that the USGA is always incompetent.

Here’s what it boils down to: the rules could probably be more clear, but this one was an obvious instance of a penalty. Thomas should probably be willing to take Twitter criticism in public if he’s willing to dish it out that way, even from the USGA, who doesn’t employ him. The USGA should make sure their facts are straight if they’re going to start being more aggressive in their self-defense.

It was, at least, entertaining.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.