NASSAU, Bahamas – Collin Morikawa was assessed a two-shot penalty for violating local model rule G-11, which restricts the use of green-reading material, on the fourth hole of the third round of the 2023 Hero World Challenge.
The rules committee was alerted to a potential rule violation late Saturday night after a question was posed by a player in the field. When asked if it was Morikawa’s playing partner during the third round, Matt Fitzpatrick, who brought the potential rule violation into question, chief referee Stephen Cox of the PGA Tour confirmed that was the case.
The local model rule was added in 2022 to protect the fundamental skill of reading greens. It’s not the first time a Tour pro has violated the rule.
Cox met with JJ Jakovac, Morikawa’s caddie, about two hours before their 12:03 p.m. final-round tee time. After reviewing his yardage book, it became clear that Jakovac had created a putting chart, which isn’t a violation of the rules in itself, but the manner of obtaining the information is key to the ruling. Jakovac used a level on the practice putting green and wrote a note directly into his yardage book and used it for assessing the read on the fourth hole during Saturday’s third round.
“Fortunately, that was the only time that a player or caddie used that chart or formula and on that basis the breach remained two strokes,” Cox said.
“This is a very complicated issue,” Cox added. “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 through our sport and that’s the foundation of why we put the model local rule in place. In this situation, again, unwittingly, the player used a level to determine degrees of slope on the practice putting green, which in itself, isolated, is not a breach, but what that player did was formulated a chart and transferred that into his book.”
Had Jakovac devised a chart using his feet and estimated the slope or simply retained the information obtained from the measuring devise to memory rather than as a handwritten note, there would have been no penalty.
Morikawa was informed of the penalty on the range about 10-15 minutes before his tee time by Cox. When asked to describe Morikawa’s response, Cox said, “It went very similar to any other conversation that results in a penalty. He was very frustrated. It’s a very complicated rule.”
As a result, Morikawa’s third-round score at the fourth hole was changed to a triple-bogey 7, giving him an even-par 72.
“They understood the rule was broken but anytime the rules penalize a player there is inevitable pushback and frustration and that was shared by both player and caddie, which is human nature,” Cox told NBC Sports.