You probably noticed that players are leaving the flagstick in while they putt. Why?
If the Masters is the first golf tournament you've watched this year, you were probably surprised to see some players leaving the flagstick in while they putt.
This is an odd sight for sure, since having a putt hit the flagstick used to be a penalty...but not anymore. As part of a "modernization" of the rules that went into effect on Jan. 1, golfers of all levels are now permitted to leave the flagstick in the hole when they putt—hitting it no longer results in a penalty.
The decision was made with pace-of-play in mind; having to take out the flag stick, then put it back in, was time consuming, so why not simplify things?
Here's one thing the rulemakers might not have considered: leaving the flagstick in provides a competitive advantage. Bryson DeChambeau, the famously science-over-everything 25-year-old, was the first convert. He said last year that he's seen experiments suggest that it's advantageous to leave the flagstick in for all putts—if a putt is going too fast, the pin serves as a backstop, so when the ball hits it, it loses momentum and drops. Additionally, having a stick in the middle of the hole provides an extra object of focus, making depth perception easier.
Not every player leaves the flagstick in, but DeChambeau and many others—including Adam Scott—are all-in on it.