(Reuters) – Justin Thomas incurred a one-stroke penalty for a rules violation at the Tour Championship on Friday that bore an eerie similarity to Dustin Johnson’s controversial infraction at the U.S. Open.
Thomas’s ball moved ever so slightly after he soled his putter behind it at the 11th green at East Lake.
PGA Tour officials viewed tape of the incident, made a swift decision and informed world number 32 Thomas of the penalty during the round.
This was in stark contrast to the situation at the U.S. Open in June, where U.S. Golf Association (USGA) officials left Johnson hanging by telling him they would review the infraction, which happened at the fifth hole, after the round.
Johnson played the final six holes uncertain of where he stood score-wise in relation to the field, though his eventual three-shot victory (including the penalty stroke) somewhat spared the USGA’s blushes.
Johnson and Thomas were both victims of the rule that states: “If the weight of evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the player caused the ball to move, even though that conclusion is not free from doubt, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2 and the ball must be replaced.”
On Friday, head rules official Mark Russell spoke with Thomas a couple of holes after the infraction.
“The way we look at it, you’re going to have to add one to your score but when you finish, we’ll let you go look at it, and then you can tell us what you think,” Russell said.
Thomas was not happy, but at least knew where he stood.
He shot 71, including the penalty stroke, to end the second round equal eighth, six strokes behind leader Johnson.
Thomas acknowledged his ball moved, but is not a fan of the rule.
“It’s a God awful rule,” he told reporters.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)