Every once in a while the "traditionalists" golfers get all up in arms about something they see happening on the PGA Tour that otherwise seems fairly trivial to the rest of us non-traditionalists who play the game and follow the guys on television.
Thus, the ever-growing practice of "backstopping" (a fellow competitor not marking his ball, which lies within a few feet of the hole, having the real potential of influencing a fellow playing competitors green-side shot) has entered into this controversial fray.
The traditionalists claim that the practice often influences scoring, which obviously influences where one finishes on Sunday.
I'm reminded of a situation years ago in a club tournament, when my opponent was putting from a long distance from the fringe, AFTER I'd blasted my green-side sand bunker shot to within a few feet of the hole. As I was going up to mark my ball - he insisted that I leave it there, unmarked. (Which mind you is asinine - he obviously wasn't aware of the rules).
Nevertheless - it paints the picture fairly accurately as to the potential advantage gained when these tour players opt to leave their balls near the hole, unmarked, as their fellow playing competitors play their upcoming short game shots.
An argument could obviously be made that if a tour player has the ability to accurately hit a fellow competitor's ball on the green - he has the ability to find a 4-1/2 inch hole near the ball, and that this is much ado about nothing. The other argument is that since this practice isn't being exercised by all of the players in the remaining groups - this provides an unfair advantage.
I typically don't side with traditionalist arguments, but it seems fairly obvious that there is a distinct advantage in these situations on occasion, since obviously most players mark their balls on the green in those situations (if in doing so it doesn't create undue delay).
Justin Thomas expressed his viewpoint on the backstopping issue a few weeks ago, saying, "It MAYBE happens 5 times a year. It’s a part of the game, if I want to rush and hit a shot for that reason, it’s my right..." (meaning that if he wants to rush through his green-side shot process in an attempt to gain an advantage from hitting a fellow playing competitor's ball near the hole - he feel's entitled to do so).
Not sure I agree with that.
And I do think it happens more than a handful of times per season. It probably happens once or twice per tournament, although it isn't be covered when those groups aren't part of the televised coverage.
I believe the traditionalists have a valid argument here, as I can see the potential advantage gained from the practice. And since not every group partakes of the practice - it does indeed have the potential to create an unfair advantage across the board.