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Mind-boggling rules mix-up gives Collin Morikawa costly penalty

When Matt Fitzpatrick queried a greens reading rule with a referee at the Hero World Challenge, this dropped Collin Morikawa in trouble…

 

Collin Morikawa was given a two-shot penalty for something his caddie did on the practice putting green.

The American breached Model Local Rule G-11 concerning the use of greens reading materials on hole 4 during the third round of the Hero World Challenge.

His caddie J.J Jakovac had used a level to measure the slope of the practice green on Saturday morning, which is allowed by the rules.

But Jakovac then wrote these notes in his yardage book which chief referee Stephen Cox says he used for a par putt on the fourth hole at Albany Golf Course.

“This is a very complicated rule,” Cox explained in the Bahamas. “We respect the traditional methods of people wanting to have notes in a yardage book.

“There’s something that has been going on for many years, and obviously when we drafted this Model Local Rule, we wanted to protect that some players and caddies take more notes than others.

“And we were very specific in the fact that these handwritten notes needed to be obtained through traditional methods to protect the fundamental skill of reading greens within our sport.

“And that’s obviously the foundation behind why we put the model local rule into place.

“A lot of players use other formulas where they retain that information to memory,” he added.

“And again, we’ve been very specific for those players that do use formulas. It’s fine. You do need to retain that in your memory for you to take onto the course.

“Unfortunately, in this case, that formula was transferred into the book as a handwritten note and then subsequently used, and that’s where the breach occurred.”

The two-time major champion had two shots added to his third-round score, before the start of the final round, which turned his 68 into a 70.

He eventually finished in seventh place and eight shots behind the winner Scottie Scheffler.

Collin Morikawa penalty: How did the rules official discover the breach?

Matt Fitzpatrick, Morikawa’s playing partner, heard that Jakovac had put the notes in his yardage book, and said to the pair during Saturday’s round that he thought this was a breach.

A meticulous note-taker himself, Fitzpatrick had intended to do this before in the season but hadn’t, so he reached out to Cox with a text after the round.

“I was on the green, I heard Collin ask the question. J.J. gave him an answer from his yardage book – I have wanted to use AimPoint earlier this year. I spoke to my putting coach, Phil Kenyon, about it,” he said.

“He told me that he was pretty certain I can’t write the numbers down or use the AimPoint numbers. So, you know, I didn’t do it. And then obviously yesterday it happened and I asked Coxy just to clarify what the situation was.

“I asked the question and he was like, well, now you’ve asked the question, I need you to tell me what’s going on. That was it.

“Listen, it’s nothing personal. Whether it was Tiger or whoever, it’s just I wanted to know because I would have used it earlier this year.”

Cox confirmed with Jakovac that he had the notes in his yardage book and assessed him the penalty 15 minutes before he began the final round with Tony Finau.

“It just sucks that from our understanding and from J.J.’s questioning of officials, it’s like what do we trust now, right” Morikawa said.

“It’s not like he has the exact conversation that he can pull out on a mic and say this is what they said, but we’re not doing this if we’re jumping on the line of being OK to not, you know?

“Like I’m not trying to cheat like that. He would never do that, I would never do that. So he did his due diligence and apparently, it was just kind of a lot of grey area.

“And you know what, Stephen said apparently to J.J. this morning that it was a grey area in all this. Why are there grey areas? There shouldn’t be grey areas in the rules, right? That’s what rules are for.

“So if he told J.J. this morning. That’s why J.J. didn’t bring it up until we were about to go warm up. It’s like well, if he doesn’t understand the rules and he has to go ask other people, then what’s the point of having these rules officials if they don’t know the rules? I don’t know. It’s frustrating to end the year like this.”

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Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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